Prospects for the coming summer season may get a bit clearer for Europeans next Wednesday (13 May) when the European Commission is expected to adopt a broad package on tourism, transport and borders in the context of the coronavirus crisis, according to an internal document seen by EURACTIV.com.
Tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic, as governments across the world imposed severe movement restrictions to slow down the virus.
As the good weather returns, many Europeans wonder whether they will be allowed to travel to their summer destinations after weeks of confinement in their homes.
The Commission will lay the groundwork next week, according to internal planning seen by EURACTIV.
The planning, dated 4 May, indicates that the College of Commissioners will discuss the following proposals:
- Communication on tourism;
- Health and safety protocols for main tourism locations, including hotels and other accommodation;
- Guidance on safe and healthy resumption of passenger transport;
- Guidance on lifting of internal borders;
- Communication on the assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non- essential travel to the EU;
- Recommendation on reliable and attractive travel vouchers as alternative reimbursement.
The document says that the planning is indicative, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could change the list of issues to be discussed and adopted.
But an EU official told this website that the college is expected to adopt all these initiatives.
This package follows up on the ‘Roadmap towards lifting the coronavirus containment measures’ that the EU executive put forward on 14 April.
The new guidelines aim to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, one of the most important sectors for the European economy, especially for southern countries. Tourism represents around 10% of the EU’s GDP, but the pandemic could cause a €400 billion loss to the sector.
A group of nine member states, (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania) have called on the Commission to come up with a specific recovery plan for tourism.
They also said “homogenous” travel rules would be needed, and warned that a disorderly relaxation of lockdown measures would further distort the tourism sector.
Against this backdrop, the Commission wants to establish a “smart” set of principles, according to von der Leyen, to ensure that the summer season is at least partially saved and Europeans can travel to their tourist hotspots in safe conditions.
“This summer is not lost,” the Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager told the European Parliament on Monday (4 May).
However, the high level of uncertainty with regards to the evolution of the pandemic still hangs over decision-makers, and it is not very clear when Europeans could start travelling within the EU or beyond.
EU High Representative for Foreign Relations, Josep Borrell, told reporters on Thursday that he did not know when we would be able to travel abroad.
“It would depend on how the de-escalation [of the confinement measures] takes place”.
Another controversial issue that the Commission will address next week is the vouchers offered by airlines to passengers of cancelled flights, instead of the mandatory reimbursement.
A total of 20 member states and a growing number of MEPs support the option of vouchers, as airlines across the world risk disappearing given the suspension of air travels.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]