European tourism has had its worst time in living memory as coronavirus lockdowns, curfews and hotel and restaurant closures have threatened the industry’s livelihood and frustrated travellers eager for a change of scenery.
The summer of 2020 saw a sharp downturn in European cross-border travel, leaving the continent’s beaches, cities and monuments — many of them top global destinations — eerily deserted.
This year is to be different: Covid-19 is still far from defeated, but virus testing is widely available, the EU countries’ vaccination rollout has gathered pace and the bloc is only days away from launching an EU travel pass, in digital and paper form, assembling key health information to speed up processing at arrival points.
Some key destinations, like Italy, are already reporting brisk bookings, while Spain hopes to reach up to 70 percent of pre-pandemic tourism levels.
Tourists from countries outside the bloc — which since Brexit include the United Kingdom — still face plenty of obstacles at EU borders, and mandatory social distancing and mask-wearing will dampen everyone’s experience.
But governments say they must avoid a dreaded fourth coronavirus wave, even as they throw tourism a lifeline.
“We have to reconcile freedom of mobility with the need for security,” French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said, echoing the sentiment across the bloc.
Here is a summary of rules in some of Europe’s key tourism spots.
France, the world’s top tourist destination, on Friday announced a colour-coded map laying out entry protocols for the summer travel season, with restrictions lifted for EU residents and “green” countries Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and Singapore.
From July 1, France will also recognise the European health pass.
In “orange” zones including Britain, North America and most of Asia and Africa, even vaccinated travellers to France will still have to produce a recent negative Covid test, but they will no longer need to quarantine or have a compelling reason for their visit.
For non-vaccinated people coming from “orange” zones, however, only essential trips will be allowed and a seven-day self-quarantine imposed.
Sixteen countries will remain largely off-limits, including India, Turkey, South Africa and much of South America, including Brazil.
Mask-wearing remains mandatory indoors and outdoors, but curfew rules will be lifted on June 30.
On Monday June 7 Spain dropped the requirement for EU arrivals to produce a recent negative PCR test.
Now anyone who has been vaccinated can enter the country, irrespective of their point of origin.
Masks remain mandatory, including outdoors, except on beaches as long as people keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) from each other. Walking on the beach will still require a mask.
Both the Madrid region and Catalonia, which includes hotspot Barcelona, have lifted their curfews and bars and restaurants can open until 1:00 am in Madrid and until midnight in Catalonia.
Spain is “technically ready” for the EU health pass, but hasn’t linked up with the system yet.
Arrivals from the EU, Britain and Israel must produce a negative Covid test less than 48 hours old and fill in a health form, but don’t need to go into quarantine.
Masks are still mandatory, although from July people may be allowed to take off the protection when outside
A curfew between midnight at 5am remains in force, and no more than four people per table are allowed in bars and restaurants.—AFP