Return of European travel

European countries eagerly await the return of tourism after a year in lockdown

Photo by Manuel Silvestri for Reuters.

— 2 minute read — by Will Jones

As COVID-19 cases continue to drop across Europe, many countries are gearing up for a summer season that will be remarkably different to the lockdown summer of last year. According to USA Today, Europe was the continent that had seen the largest decline in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the past week. Furthermore, approximately 44 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine in Europe.

This progress – quite literally – opens Europe up to possibilities of widespread travel over the coming months – reaping the financial rewards of the various holidaymakers that have been locked-down in their respective countries for the last year.

In early May, European lawmakers approved plans to introduce a travel pass that will enable tourism between the EU in time for the summer holidays. The digital certificate covers anyone in the European Union who has received an approved jab, although on 1st June, this was extended to holidaymakers who returned a negative test within 72 hours or had recently recovered from the virus. This extended system is now in place in seven European countries. Taking to Twitter, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Time to revive EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely.”

A number of other countries have already formulated their own pass systems. England is operating a traffic light system; if a country is on the ‘green’ list, people have been able to travel there without quarantine on return since 17th May. The public has been encouraged not to travel to ‘amber’ or ‘red’ countries, however.

Autumn challenges ahead as COVID rates rise amid European travel season –  EURACTIV.com
Mask rules still apply when flying. Photo by Shutterstock.

The reopening of borders will come as a relief to the many countries that rely on their tourism industry. In Spain, the industry generates 12.3% of GDP and 12.7% of its employment. It is also important to note the importance of tourism on individual people’s lives. The livelihoods of hospitality, catering, leisure and retail owners and workers will have been plagued by the pandemic; the return to relative normality will be a welcome relief to those who have faced employment and financial insecurity over the past annum.

However, the EU Commission has elucidated the need to constantly observe the situation. Whilst travel in Europe has, thus far, occurred without major issue, the easily-transmissible nature of emerging variants renders the perpetual studying of the circumstances important. European leaders have made it clear that borders and travel corridors will be closed without hesitation if cases and hospitalisations rise.

Whilst the situation will be continually monitored, it appears as though European tourism will soon be returning to a normality that we can recognise – like the numerous other aspects of our lives.