The European Commission on Tuesday said there is a “glimmer of hope” for EU tourism this summer, considering that the Covid-19 vaccination process in member states moves faster to allow for holiday trips to become a reality.
Speaking in a debate on “Saving the summer tourist season – EU support for the hotel sector” at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton stressed that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis in the tourism sector across the EU with revenues down by at least 50 percent and cross-border travel down by some 70 percent.
“The crisis has cost millions of jobs and has therefore affected millions of lives,” the commissioner said, stressing that the crisis has affected all European regions, particularly those most dependent on tourism.
“However, there is a glimmer of hope when we look towards the summer,” Breton said, underlining that the faster vaccination rolls out in member states, the faster traveling for holidays will become a reality.
Boosting the confidence of EU citizens to travel
During his speech, the commissioner said that when the epidemiological situation is looked at globally, the situation is very worrying.
“Although there is this glimmer of hope in the horizon, this situation is of concern and we need therefore to take appropriate measures to protect public health and to ensure safety,” he said.
“The European Commission has presented a number of measures, seeking to enable the sector to open up again safely so that travelers will be confident… I’m sure that 70 percent of the adult population of the EU would be able to be vaccinated by the middle of July because we will have adequate vaccine supply. And this is the first factor which should give citizens the confidence to be able to travel again,” Breton underlined.
Digital Green Certificate will facilitate a return to EU travel
The commissioner then noted that member states “will be opening up slowly” and that safe travel must be guaranteed for EU citizens.
“Opening the tourism sector before the summer in a safe and attractive way for tourists will mean that we will need to have a high level of coordination at national and European level,” he said, referring to the Digital Green Certificate, which is to be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“The digital certificate would be a means of proving that you have been vaccinated or recently tested or have covid antibodies, having recovered. This would be a valuable tool which could promote cross-border travel and should enable us to have a consistent approach across the EU so that we don’t have divergent policies,” Breton said, adding that the matter is being treated as a priority by co-legislators.
The commissioner added that he believes the certificate will see the light of day by the middle of June and therefore be a reality, “deployable by the summer holiday season” when it kicks off properly.
With regard to member states that will be concerned about maintaining restrictions – such as quarantines – if they are uncertain about vaccine levels, Breton said that the Commission’s work inter alia consists of ensuring that all EU states can open up safely in a consistent way across the board.
“The Commission intends to work very closely with all the member states in order to ensure that there aren’t any unnecessary restrictions on travel and that we focus on our external frontiers so that we have consistent standards applying to our borders,” he said.
Moreover, Breton said that proper standards will also be needed across the hotel and restaurant sector in the EU so that travelers will be confident that they can travel safely to destinations. “Αll these standards must be finalized by the summer,” he said.
Touching on the cultural sector, Breton referred to it as an integral part of the tourism sector, one that has been adversely affected by covid restrictions.
“The commission is therefore going to use its existing networks in order to try and open up the cultural and heritage sector safely so that it can resume activity but also do so safely in the light of health considerations. We would like to see music and museums; theater and film; and heritage and cultural sites all open again but obviously there needs to be standards and criteria,” he said.