Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 was a big day in Europe, the legacy of which may last a lifetime. European Ministers laid out comprehensive plans in support of a responsible reopening of borders and tourism, addressing how the European Union can tackle the global pandemic while balancing a dire need to preserve livelihoods in a continent where 10% or more of all jobs are in the travel or tourism industry.

It’s good news from Iceland to Greece, and long before expected, signals of a return to travel are here.

June 15th Extension

Europe officially extended external border closures, to a new date of June 15th, 2020. On that date, unless the unlikely event of another extension occurs, countries within the EU zone will be able to allow outside travelers back in. But even before then, glimmers of ‘safety first’ tourism may emerge via bilateral agreements between countries with similar levels of success in dealing with the global crisis.

On the news, countries including Iceland have stated desire to open to guests outside of Europe, even including the hard hit United States in reopening plans. Greece is still aiming for a July 1st broad reopening to international guests outside of Europe, and the world will certainly watch and wait. If initial travels prove successful without causing any notable spikes, the great reboot may be much sooner than expected.

Steps For Safe Tourism

The EU laid out a multi faceted approach to a gradual reopening of tourism, with a focus on creating Europe-wide guidelines for safety and health protocols in hotels, border checkpoints and beyond. Basically, they want travelers to feel safe that countries throughout the bloc are working in partnership to create standards people can trust and feel certain about.

Early preventative measures include standards for healthcare system capacity to cope with any influx of tourists, in addition to needs of locals, as well as contact tracing apps which could work across borders. These would be optional, but strongly encouraged and could greatly help to quickly curb any future spread. Details such as seat assignments could also be collected, to better identify clusters on inbound flights.

Perhaps most importantly, best practices are being developed for testing via cheek swabs, and standardizing of recent health certificates, with 4 day validity as an initial estimate. In other words, you should be able to avoid quarantine if you can present a clean bill of health, or test negative via cheek swab on arrival.

The opportunity to get tested before departure prevents high numbers of travelers getting quarantined for 14 days, on the off chance they test positive, which could be a deal breaker for many.

Guidelines suggested by the EU will extend to restaurants, bars, attractions and virtually anything visitors may come in contact with. In instances where social distancing isn’t viable, containment measures are the key focus, with suggestions for masks on modes of transport. Expect travel to be different and distanced, but in many ways, that’s not even a bad thing.

To help restore confidence in air travel, the EU also upheld rules that refunds must be offered when airlines cancel flights, and recommended airlines go further in trying to make vouchers a more attractive option, by sweetening the deal with an added amount, or perks for choosing to do so. It’s a win win. Let’s hope travel is this summer too.

Full documentation of the EU recommendations and links to relevant content can be found here.

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