13th May, European Commission: how to safely resume travel and restart tourism in Europe
The Commission has presented a set of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of closure, while respecting the necessary health precautions.
The package from the Committee on Tourism and Transport includes:
- A comprehensive strategy for recovery in 2020 and beyond;
- A common approach to restoring freedom of movement and lifting restrictions at the EU’s internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
- A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport, while ensuring the safety of passengers and staff;
- A recommendation to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
- Criteria for the safe and gradual re-establishment of tourism activities and the development of health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.
For tourists and travellers
The Commission seeks to give people the ability, confidence and security to travel again with the following measures:
- Restoring freedom of movement safely and lifting internal border controls: As Member States succeed in reducing the circulation of the virus, general restrictions on free movement will have to be replaced by more targeted measures. Member States should act on the basis of the following three criteria:
- epidemiological, focusing in particular on areas where the situation is improving, based on the guidelines of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and using the regional map developed by the ECDC;
- the capacity to implement containment measures throughout the journey, including at border crossings, including safeguards and additional measures where physical distance may be difficult to ensure and
- economic and social considerations, initially giving priority to cross-border movements in key areas of activity and including personal reasons.
2. Restoring transport services throughout the EU while protecting the health of transport workers and passengers: the guidelines present general principles for the safe and gradual restoration of passenger transport by air, rail, road and inland waterway A number of recommendations are made, such as the need to limit contact between passengers and transport workers, and passengers themselves, by reducing, where possible, passenger density. It also includes indications on the use of personal protective equipment, such as face masks, and on appropriate protocols in case passengers show symptoms of coronavirus.
3. Safe resumption of tourism services: The Commission establishes a common framework providing criteria for the safe and gradual resumption of tourism activities and develops health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodation, in order to protect the health of both guests and employees. These criteria include epidemiological evidence; the existence of sufficient health system capacity for the local population and tourists; strong surveillance and monitoring and testing capacity; and contact tracing. These guidelines will enable people to stay safely in hotels, campsites, bed and breakfasts or other holiday accommodation, eat and drink in restaurants, bars and cafes and go to beaches and other outdoor recreation areas.
4. Ensure cross-border interoperability of tracing applications: the Member States, with the support of the Commission, agreed on guidelines to ensure cross-border interoperability of tracing applications so that citizens can be warned of possible coronavirus infection also when travelling in the EU. These tracking applications should be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cyber-secure, use anonymous data, be based on Bluetooth technology and be interoperable across borders and between operating systems.
For tourism businesses
The Commission intends to support Europe’s tourism sector by:
- Ensuring the liquidity of tourism enterprises, in particular SMEs, by
- Flexibility in State aid rules allowing Member States to introduce schemes, such as voucher guarantee schemes and other liquidity schemes, to support businesses in the transport and travel sectors and to ensure that claims caused by the coronavirus pandemic are met. Voucher schemes can be approved by the Commission very quickly, following notification by the Member State concerned.
- EU funding: The EU continues to provide immediate liquidity to companies affected by the crisis through the Coronavirus Response Facility Initiative, which is managed jointly with Member States. In addition, the Commission has made available up to EUR 8 billion of funding for 100,000 small businesses affected by the crisis, through the European Investment Fund.
2. Saving jobs with up to EUR 100 billion of financial assistance from the SURE programme: The SURE programme helps Member States to cover the costs of national short-time working schemes and similar measures that enable businesses to safeguard jobs. The Commission also supports partnerships between employment services, social partners and enterprises to facilitate retraining, especially of seasonal workers.
3. Connecting citizens to local tourism supply, promoting local attractions and tourism and Europe as a safe tourist destination: The Commission will work with Member States to promote a sponsorship voucher scheme whereby customers can support their favourite hotels or restaurants. It will also promote pan-European communication campaigns presenting Europe as a top tourist destination.
11th May, Transport and Tourism Committee: Transport support
On Monday 11 May 2020, the Transport and Tourism Committee discussed with the Commission urgent relief measures for the transport sector, while reiterating the need for an EU-wide recovery strategy.
Transport Committee MEPs supported the urgency procedure for proposed measures. However, they noted also that there is a need for greater transparency and deliberation before rushing any legislative proposals through:
- Aviation: Contracts with ground-handling services should be flexible, as should modified air carrier licensing rules. The measure mostly received support in the debate.
- Maritime: Ports should be able to defer, reduce or lift port infrastructure charges for port users. Many MEPs underlined that it is not clear who would benefit from this proposal and it is difficult to see its added value in a very competitive environment. This might cause unfair competition. The Commission said that it remains an optional tool to provide additional flexibility and keep supply lanes open.
- Rail: the deadline to transpose EU law on rail safety and interoperability should be extended. Transport Committee MEPs agree with the extension; however, the timeframe remains under discussion.
- Relieving the administrative burden: the validity of certain certificates and licences should be extended by providing temporary derogation from 15 legal acts. Many MEPs supported the changes by the Council, i.e. for the less affected member states to opt-out from the relief measures.
The MEPs also reiterated the need for a coordinated approach to easing COVID-19 lockdown measures as well as the need for additional support measures for both the transport and tourism sectors.
8th May, European Parliament: Support for tourism during the crisis
Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have had a direct impact on the tourism industry. It is estimated that hotel and restaurant revenues will fall by 50%, tour operators and agencies by 70% and airlines and cruise ships by 90%. As half of the world’s tourism is European, the pandemic has posed a particularly difficult situation for those EU countries most dependent on this sector, such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.
- Companies and workers in the tourism sector are already benefiting from the measures adopted by the EU, which include financial support, tax exemptions and relaxation of state rules, as well as the temporary suspension of the rules applicable to landing and take-off slots for airlines.
- The EU has also adapted the guidelines on passenger rights and the travel package directive.
- It has also facilitated the repatriation, through the EU’s civil protection mechanism, of tens of thousands of European citizens who were stranded in countries other than their country of origin or residence. EU measures in support of tourism complement those already taken at the national level.
6th May, UK government: Mobility between France and the UK
The UK government states that you can still cross the border back into the UK via France.
If you live in France, the French government has confirmed that you can still enter France to return to your main residence. However, in order to travel within or through France, you will need to complete a travel declaration certifying the reason for your trip.
This must be completed before you begin your journey. This does not replace the requirement of the certificate “International travel from abroad to mainland France”, to enter France.
The availability of transport from France to the UK is subject to change. Many airlines and cross-Channel operators are operating very substantially reduced services for passenger traffic. Passengers should check with their operator before departing, and may still be subject to severe disruption.
Travel options to transport hubs, such as airports, ferry terminals and train stations are also majorly disrupted and options to buy food and refreshments are reduced.
5th May, Government of France: Mobility restrictions
There are quarantine conditions in force for people entering certain French overseas territories from Mainland France or abroad. The bill also provides for placing in quarantine French or foreign nationals entering French territory from a list of geographical areas to be determined.
Measures associated with a prohibition to leave the place of quarantine or isolation will be placed under the supervision of the liberty and custody judge, who may examine a case on his/her own initiative or be referred cases at any time, and in any event at the end of 14 days.
The quarantine measure will not apply to people entering French territory from countries in the European area (Member States of the European Union, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, the UK, San Marino, the Holy See and Switzerland), however.
This particularly means that quarantine will not apply to cross-border workers.