Travel and tourism coalition urges EU states to tackle ‘patchwork’ travel rules

By Luke Barras-hill |

Travel & tourism associations have reiterated a call for EU member states to align their travel rules.

The European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) is part of a group of *associations representing the interests of European travel and tourism that are again insisting that EU member states adopt common conditions for intra-regional travel.

In December, the EU Commission announced that the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) introduced last summer would be valid for nine months without individuals requiring a booster jab.

However, several EU countries such as France, Italy, Denmark and Malta have since decided to shorten the validity of the pass to seven or even three months, a statement read.

A number of other countries have also introduced additional testing requirements applying to vaccinated/recovered EU travellers that go against EU Council recommendations (Provision 17aa of Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/1475 on free movement), the statement continued.

EMERGING DCC DISCREPANCIES ‘WORRYING’

“Transport and tourism associations are very concerned at this emerging new patchwork of rules across Europe,” read a joint statement. “The industry supports the European Commission according to which a harmonised validity period for the DCC ‘is a necessity for safe free movement and EU level co-ordination’.

“Although the Commission recommends EU member states apply the same DCC validity period for intra-EU travel and national level, the emerging discrepancies are worrying. Equally, member states should align with the Council recommendations as they are agreed and updated from time to time, so that travel between member states is possible under equal conditions across the EU at all times.”

The associations say that despite the pandemic raging for two years – European economic forecasts predict a pre-crisis recovery is unlikely before 2023 – several EU member states ‘continue to act unilaterally’ by adopting a different DCC validity period and implementing divergent rules regarding children and young adults below 18 years, according to the associations.

“This inconsistency in travel restrictions across the EU directly impinges on individual passengers and businesses to schedule future trips and holiday bookings,” the statement read. “The transport and tourism industry still sees booking rates at least 30% below 2021 levels.

“The emergence of non-co-ordinated travel restrictions across the EU jeopardises the DCC’s objective – to support safe and free movement across the EU. We urge governments to stop deviating from this consistent approach and ensure a clear and harmonised process at a European level.

“The travel and tourism sectors have already suffered greatly at the hands of the pandemic, with economic consequences set to continue for years to come. Now more than ever, co-ordination between national governments to provide clear, safe and consistent rules is needed, to support traveller confidence, ‘save’ the summer season and ultimately ensure economic recovery.”

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe.

STOP-START YEAR

Yesterday (25 January), ACI Europe announced that Europe’s airports lost 1.4 billion passengers in 2021 (-59% versus 2019) although passenger traffic increased by 37% in 2021 year-on-year.

Omicron has stalled the recovery, especially in the EU+5 area, after the Delta variant ruptured passenger traffic volumes in the first half of 2021 (-77.7% against 2019).

Border lockdowns and travel restrictions were also reintroduced, with most intercontinental markets out of reach.

Airports across the EU+ market grew passenger traffic by 29.2% year-on-year (-64.6% versus 2019).

However, non-EU airports significantly outperformed the European average with traffic up 59.4% in 2021 year-on-year (-34.4% versus 2019).

While passenger traffic had progressively improved between June and November compared with pre-pandemic levels – buffered by the vaccine rollout, EU Digital Covid Certifications and re-opening of the transatlantic market in November – Omicron’s spread had an adverse impact in December (-39.2%).

Mainly concentrated in the EU+ market, Omicron’s transmission did not, however, prevent modest gains across the rest of Europe (Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan).

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe said: “After losing 1.72 billion passengers in 2020, we all had high hopes for a strong recovery in 2021. But last year proved another difficult one, as Europe’s airports ended up losing another 1.4 billion passengers compared to 2019. This means they remain under considerable stress, with systemic financial weakness across our industry.

“The knee-jerk reaction of many governments who ignored the ECDC [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control] guidance and rushed to re-impose travel bans and other restrictions – including for intra-European travel – has stalled our recovery. Yet, these travel restrictions did nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, as recognised just last week by the WHO and also evidenced by a recent Oxera & Edge Health report looking at the situation in the UK.”

*European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC), Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines 4 Europe (A4E), Cruise Lines International Association Europe, European tourism association (ETOA), European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA), European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and EU travel tech.

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