European tourism organisations have called on governments across the continent to align travel rules to avoid a patchwork of regulations.
Passengers and business alike need a stable and coherent European framework to restart travelling and safely prepare for spring, it was argued.
In the last few weeks, Europe has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases and the spread of the latest and highly-transmittable variant, Omicron.
While the European Commission announced in December that the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) would be valid for nine months without a booster shot, several EU countries – including France, Italy, Denmark and Malta – decided to shorten the validity of vaccination passes for national use to seven or three months.
A number of countries have also introduced additional testing requirements that apply to vaccinated/recovered EU travellers, going against the current European Council recommendations.
Transport and tourism associations are very concerned at this emerging new patchwork of rules across Europe.
The industry supports the European Commission according to which a harmonised validity period for the DCC “is a necessity for safe free movement and EU level co-ordination”.
Although the commission recommends EU member states apply the same DCC validity period for intra-EU travel and national level, the emerging discrepancies are worrying.
Equally, states should align with the council recommendations as they are agreed and updated from time to time, so that travel between Member States is possible under equal conditions across the EU at all times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the biggest global recession since WWII.
Data shows EU economic underperformance from 2019–present relative to the United States and China, with forecasts confirming recovery is unlikely before 2023.
Southern European countries have been particularly affected and without doubt, the travel and tourism sectors have been hit harder than others.
Although the pandemic has been raging for the last two years, several EU members continue to act unilaterally, adopting a different DCC validity period, as well as diverging rules regarding children and young adults below 18 years old.
This will have a direct impact on families wanting to travel for the winter holidays and later on this spring.
This inconsistency in travel restrictions across the EU directly impinges on individual passengers and businesses to schedule future trips and holiday bookings.
The transport and tourism industry still sees booking rates at least 30 per cent below 2021 levels.
Organisations including Airlines for Europe, ACI Europe, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Travel Agents’ & Tour Operators’ Association, European Regions Airline Association, ETOA and the European Travel Retail Confederation, among others, signed letter.