Today, the Commission presents a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions.
The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.
On travel, the European Commission proposes an approach in phases which “starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations.”
So citizens of countries with similar levels of infections should be able to travel more freely.
There should also be enough capacity in hospitals, as well as testing, surveillance, and contact tracing capacities in place for tourism to start again.
The EU recommends buying tickets and doing check-ins online.
Beyond this, the sanitising gel should be freely available during journeys. Food/drink should not be served aboard.
The proposals say that in areas which would expect a big wave of tourists (such as island nations), that the areas have sufficient health system capacity “in place for local people and tourists so that in the event of a sudden increase in cases, primary care, hospital, and intensive care services are not overwhelmed”.
The Commission says the approach taken by member states must also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if the epidemiological situation requires.
The move by the European Commission follows a similar initiative by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which debuted this week its set of global “Safe Travel” protocols for travel in the “new normal.”
Making vouchers more attractive
Under EU rules, travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets (plane, train, bus/coach, and ferries) or package travel,
While reaffirming this right, the Commission’s recommendation aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips in the context of the current pandemic, which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators.
The voluntary vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the issuer, with a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed.
They should also provide passengers sufficient flexibility, should allow the passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions or the travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality.
They should also be transferable to another traveller.