Wednesday, 28 September 2022

EU pushes for reopening of borders to boost tourism

The European Union (EU) on Wednesday, 13 May, called for the gradual reopening of the bloc’s borders in a bid to revive the tourism industry that the COVID-19 pandemic has put into a standstill. Travel restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the virus have had a devastating effect on the sector, with airlines forced to ground their planes and lay off thousands of workers.

Tourism makes up 10% of the GDP and 12% of jobs in the EU as a whole. Hard-hit countries such as Spain and Italy also rely heavily on tourism. With summer fast approaching, the EU intends to do as much as it can to save the struggling industry and the much-anticipated annual summer holiday season of millions of Europeans.

“We all need a break, especially after this confinement. We want to enjoy summer holidays, we would like to see our families and friends even if they live in another region, in another country. But we want to be able to do so while staying healthy and safe because we know the virus will stay with us for some time,” said EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

In the proposal, Brussels outlined a three-stage phased approach, starting with the current stage, during which any cross-border travel deemed non-essential remains prohibited. The second phase sees the gradual lifting of travel restrictions between countries and regions that are at a similar stage of the pandemic and where the overall health situation is getting better. In the third and final phase, all border controls would be eased, meaning travel throughout Europe will once again be fully permitted.

The proposed approach also outlines public health measures to ensure the contagion is kept at bay. There will be fewer passengers on board planes and other transportation options. Face masks will be required for travellers as well, especially on shared transport such as trains and buses and hubs like airports. Hotels and restaurants will also be urged to limit guest numbers to ensure social distancing is observed.

Decisions about the reopening of borders fall on national governments.

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