We will have summer tourist season, promises EU

A board informing that the access to Alcyons beach is forbidden is displayed in Guethary southwestern France, on May 12, 2020 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption This beach in France is shut, but beaches in north-western France are beginning to reopen

The European Union’s executive Commission is to propose a gradual lifting of borders in an attempt to kick-start a tourist industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer,” said economic affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, “even if it’s with security measures and limitations.”

Borders closed across the EU, including the border-free Schengen zone.

But states are starting to reopen them.

Austria and Germany have become the latest EU countries to agree to remove travel restrictions.

From Friday there will be random checks at border crossings and then on 15 June free movement should resume. “We want to make people’s everyday lives easier and take another step towards more normality,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Germany introduced border controls on several of its neighbours when the outbreak began

The scale of the crisis was illustrated by travel giant Tui announcing the loss of up to 8,000 jobs worldwide with plans to cut costs by 30%. The German government has given the company a €1.8bn (£1.6bn; $1.9bn) bridging loan to stay afloat.

What is the EU planning?

The European Commission will give details of the proposals on Wednesday, but a draft document called for a “concerted” and “non-discriminatory” move across the 27-nation bloc.

The non-binding plans involve gradually removing travel bans and then border checks as the Covid-19 outbreak comes under control across the member states. Countries with a similar health situation would work together to lift their borders and maintain targeted restrictions.

Mr Gentiloni, in an interview with six European newspapers, said Europe’s tourist industry was facing a 40% loss of activity and the sector had to be relaunched with a focus on three areas:

  • Focusing security measures on transport and accommodation in holiday destinations
  • Co-ordinating the re-opening of borders and avoiding “discriminatory” treatment between states
  • Maintaining the rights of consumers when companies are replacing cash compensation with vouchers
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Gentiloni says the EU is at a crossroads – “existential threat or historic opportunity”

Mr Gentiloni said Italy’s tourist season had already been badly hit as the first half of main period from March to May had already been lost.

How are different states acting?

The EU is keen to get countries in the EU and the Schengen zone working together, as many are moving at a different pace in lifting their lockdowns.

Some countries have already imposed quarantine measures on travellers. From Friday, arrivals in Spain will have to go into quarantine for 14 days.

The UK, which has left the EU but still operates under its rules this year, plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on arrivals by air. However, it has agreed bilateral travel arrangements with France and Ireland that mean there would be no quarantine involved. Beaches in France’s north-western Brittany region began reopening to visitors on Wednesday but under tight restrictions.

England’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Tuesday that “big, lavish international holidays” this year were unlikely this year, although some hospitality could resume from July.

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Media captionMatt Hancock: “Unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to possible for this summer”

A “Baltic bubble” is set to come into operation on Friday, enabling travel by rail, sea and air across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but with a quarantine initially in place for travellers from other states.

All travellers will have to be free of Covid-19 symptoms and Latvia has urged people to decide whether travel is absolutely necessary.