What will our summer holidays look like? In our pampered modern civilisation, each and every one of us is asking this question. Let’s sum up what we know at this stage.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has advised Europeans not to book hotels for holidays. Speaking to German newspaper Bild, she said: ‘I’d advise everyone to wait before making holiday plans. At the moment, no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August.”
Having said that, the lockdown cannot last forever. French President Emmanuel Macron opened a perspective for gradual de-confinement after 11 May. But this will not be a return to normal.
As an example, some economic activity will resume, but restaurants and hotels will remain close. Will they open in June, July? Hard to tell.
A leaked Commission document about the EU coronavirus exit strategy, seen by EURACTIV today, gives no timeline of the future de-confinement. The gradual lifting of measures is expected to differ in different member states according to their own situation.
Re-imposing of restrictions is always possible when reappearance of infections occur. It is unclear when internal EU borders will re-open, what is certain is that it will take much more time before Europe opens to the outside world again.
So please forget about holidays in distant exotic islands. Also, don’t count too much on holidays in a neighbouring country, even if you have a summer house there, and if you plan to go by car. Most likely we shall all stay in our country of residence for the summer.
Let’s face it: in many places tourists, especially from other countries, would be seen as a potential source of contagion. Psychologically, this will not disappear overnight.
Moreover, governments in frugal countries may take the view that in light of the economic crisis, this is not the time to go on holiday but to focus on restructuring the economy.
Such views have been expressed in Finland. We haven’t heard anything similar from the part of Europe where they have the siesta, and where it may be too hot to work in summer months.
And maybe the school year will start earlier in some places – in July instead of September. What is certain is that it’s very difficult to issue the order: you shall spend your summer at home.
Some people live in cottages with a garden and sometimes a barbecue corner, a swimming pool and a wine cellar. But many others live in tiny high-rise apartments together with children and sometimes elderly parents.
Confinement is not the same for everyone: the difference is as big as between a 5-star hotel and a prison cell. Social divisions have never been so exacerbated. For millions of Europeans, having some air is also a health necessity and leaders should be aware of that at a time when we’re all completing our first month under house arrest.
A plan to open up local tourism is badly needed. We haven’t seen that in the Commission’s draft exit strategy. It’s not too late to include one.
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Views are the author’s