HOLIDAYS to Europe WILL go ahead this year, EU officials have claimed – but with new restrictions.
It will also be on a country-by-country basis, meaning only destinations with similar coronavirus case levels may open to each other.
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EU’s economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said earlier today: “Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer, even if it’s with security measures and limitations.”
Currently, the majority of countries within the EU have banned foreign internationals, and the UK Foreign Office has warned against all non-essential travel.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “likely to be the case” that summer holidays would be cancelled for Brits this year.
He explained on This Morning: “I think it’s unlikely that big lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer.”
However, some countries are starting to lift their restrictions as cases of coronavirus continue to drop.
Spain, Italy and Greece are all reducing their lockdown measures, with locals now allowed outside and shops beginning to open.
The executive European Commission will make a number of non-binding recommendations, including targeted restrictions replacing a general ban on travel, and that internal border checks slowly be lifted as the health situation improves.
It hopes to help the tourism industry recover which has already lost billions since lockdowns were implemented in March.
The guidelines are voluntary, however, with member states holding the ultimate power over when and how to lift border restrictions and restart travel.
The guidelines state: “If a generalised lifting of restrictions is not justified by the health situation, the Commission proposes a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations.”
For example, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania hope to open their borders to one another by the end of the week, while the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany may also do the same.
However, Spain and Bulgaria are enforcing similar two-week quarantines on incoming travellers, making it difficult for non-nationals to visit.
New restrictions are also likely to be in place, making holidays a very different experience.
Face masks are likely to become mandatory both at airports and on public transport and train stations, carry on luggage could be limited and people will be advised to arrive much earlier for flights to keep airports free from crowding.
Hotels may be required to take additional contact information in case guests fall sick, and online check in may be enforced.
Social distancing at cafes, resorts and beaches will be in place, something many holiday destinations are already attempting to enforce.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Tourism is vital to the Single Market and it’s four freedoms and a key contributor to the EU’s economic, social and cultural way of life.
“As our Member States gradually lift restrictive measures, we are putting in place the foundations for rebooting the tourism eco-system and Single Market in a safe, proportionate way that will prevent the resurgence of the virus within the EU, whilst safeguarding our way of life.”
Despite the limitations being put onto travellers, Greece is one country looking at welcoming tourists this summer.
Athens hopes the tourist season can begin in earnest on June 15 although officials admit “that date is optimistic,” and fear the popular holiday islands may be further behind.
But on islands such as Corfu, where over 50 percent of visitors are from the UK, hoteliers are not hiding their concern that Britain’s continuing high rates of infection and record death toll will dramatically affect the number wanting to travel at all.
“Data right now shows that we will have an extremely limited tourist season because Britain and other major source countries are still quite behind in their handling of the crisis,” said Christina Tetradis president of hoteliers on the adjacent Ionian island of Zakynthos.
A “tourism operation plan” is expected to be unveiled by the government on Monday after officials study Wednesday’s recommendations further.
Highlighting the country’s determination to get the sector back on track, organized beaches around the Greek capital will be opened for the first time this weekend, although there will be strict rules: alcohol and music will be banned.
Industry figures are pleased that the provisions now pave the way for Brits visiting Greece – the country’s number one market.
One tourism ministry official said that “all Brits need to do” is take a test confirming they don’t have coronavirus, and they will be able to go on holidays once again.
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