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Today marks the first day in months that Europe has reopened its borders to visitors, but one key group is notably absent: Americans.
Allowing U.S. travelers to enter the European Union (EU) was just too risky due to the country’s difficulty in controlling the outbreak, according to top EU officials. (As of press time, the U.S. has the highest number of deaths and positive cases of the coronavirus, comprising approximately 2.7 million of the 10.5 million confirmed cases worldwide.)
The U.S. is not the only country facing travel restrictions during the pandemic, however. It joins dozens of others in similar predicaments — including Brazil and Russia, No. 2 and No. 3 on the list of top COVID-19 cases — from entering the countries that make up the 27-member union.
The decision to ban U.S. travelers from entering the EU for the foreseeable future is likely to have disastrous effects on tourism and economic recovery, according to Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president for public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, who called the announcement “incredibly disappointing” and “a step in the wrong direction.”
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"In the U.S. alone, travel-related jobs account for more than a one-third of lost employment due to the fallout of the pandemic,” she said.
In addition to increased stress on the U.S. economy, Emerson Barnes is also concerned about the potential of retaliation from the U.S. government (when, ironically, the U.S.’s own restrictions against most European travelers — which were enacted in March — have yet to be lifted.)
Many capital cities within Europe – including Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Venice and Madrid, rank in the top 10 destinations for American travelers, noted Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), with “a growing number of Americans visiting Europe over the past 20 years.”
“Our travel advisors report extraordinary pent-up demand for travel,” he said. “The European travel market is vital to the business of travel advisors. With the No Sail Order still in place, this proposed travel ban threatens to push our members' businesses off a cliff. Punishing American travelers is short-sighted and economically irresponsible."
This proposed travel ban threatens to push our members' businesses off a cliff. Punishing American travelers is short-sighted and economically irresponsible.
However, Kerby did acknowledge that the reasoning behind the EU’s decision was based on “genuine concerns from local officials.”
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This decision comes at a time when the European economy is already in a slump, according to recent data from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and research firm ForwardKeys.
According to the research, the EU as a whole experienced an 84% drop in new ticket sales for future travel, compared to the same period in 2019.
But today’s reopening of borders, albeit only to the 14 countries on the EU’s safe list, may provide a light at the end of the tunnel. And a small increase in travelers could make a difference to struggling European economies, according to the WTTC, which revealed that even a 1% increase in international arrivals will produce about $7.2 billion in additional GDP.
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“Even a modest resumption of traveling can have massive economic benefits and bring thousands of desperately needed jobs back, providing a critical boost for the struggling travel and tourism sector and generating desperately needed GDP for economies left floundering after being struck by the pandemic,” said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of WTTC.”
Health is paramount, and the public has a major role to play by embracing best practices such as wearing masks, but we are at a stage when it should be possible to make progress.
The responsibility to improve the situation lies with both travelers and local governments working in “public-private cooperation,” she said, urging European governments to ease lockdowns and travel restrictions, while also keeping health and safety measures in place, such as a “comprehensive testing and tracing program.”
The public will need to play their part, as well, according to U.S. Travel’s Emerson Barnes.
“Health is paramount, and the public has a major role to play by embracing best practices such as wearing masks, but we are at a stage when it should be possible to make progress,” she said.
Visitors — whether traveling domestically or abroad this summer — should also practice social distancing, frequent hand-washing and remaining home if sick, added Roger Dow, CEO for the U.S. Travel Association.
"A wealth of information from medical experts points to the value of mask wearing as a key tool in preventing the spread of infection,” he said. “Health and safety are paramount to restarting travel and putting Americans back to work, and our industry's recovery is contingent on businesses and travelers alike doing their part to ensure a healthy and safe travel experience for all along the journey."
The DetailsAmerican Society of Travel Advisors www.asta.org
U.S. Travel Associationwww.ustravel.org
World Travel and Tourism Councilwww.wttc.org