Opinion: EU opening travel to vaccinated Americans is a light at the end of the tunnel

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Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Vonderauvisuals

WSPN’s Emily Roberge discusses the European Union’s plan to allow vaccinated American tourists.

As more Americans continue to get vaccinated, a feeling of normalcy seems to get closer and closer. For over a year, we have been stuck in our houses, yearning for everything to get back to normal. Finally, this may be a reality for some travel-goers as the EU is planning to allow vaccinated U.S. tourists to visit this summer.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on April 25 that Americans are making progress in their vaccinations and are “on track” to achieving herd immunity by mid-June. “The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines, Agency-approved vaccines,” von der Leyen said. “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.” These approved vaccines include Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

Even though there was no definite timeline of when the EU will allow vaccinated American tourists back, this is promising to say the least. Without US summer tourists, countries that rely greatly on tourism like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Croatia lose a great amount of revenue and jobs. One specific example is France, which plans on opening back up to vaccinated travelers on June 9. Like other countries in the EU, France would require “a health pass” or a negative PCR-test; however, the EU is still discussing the details of this plan. At this moment, within the EU, each country has its policies and guidelines regarding travel.

The beautiful countries in the EU offer not only delicious food and arrays of historical sights, but an unforgettable getaway. Whether it’s the stunning coastline of the Amalfi Coast, the greenery and jagged cliffs of Iceland or the architecture along the hills of Santorini, Greece, the overall experience of touring Europe is incredible.

Although health concerns may come from traveling internationally to the EU, many of these countries are dependent on the revenue generated from tourism. The United Nations predictted in 2020 that revenue in hotels and restaurants will decrease by 50% and 70% for the travel agency and travel operator sector. The airline industry and cruises were also expected to drop by 90%. Not only is this detrimental to these businesses, but the employees within these economies. Like many industries, this pandemic hit tourism especially hard.

As of right now, travel to EU nations and regulations are still complicated and unknown; however, there are several countries already opening their doors to American tourism. EU countries are planning on taking any necessary safety precautions to sustain safe international traveling. These countries include Greece, Iceland, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Cyprus and Georgia, but the guidelines and restrictions vary. For example, when traveling to Greece, a negative PCR test is required within 72 hours of arrival or evidence of vaccination two weeks before arriving. However, the country still remains under a lockdown and obtains various social distancing regulations.

One country has even gone so far as to paying tourists to visit this summer: Malta. This small island located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily, Italy, offers a great deal of ancient history, fantastic beaches and stunning landscapes at a very affordable price. COVID-19 has ravaged their source of income from tourism, which accounts for 27% of its revenue, so Malta’s Minister Clayton Bartolo has said that the government will pay international travelers 200 euros (240 dollars) if their stay is over two nights. To earn this money, travelers must book their trips independently without a travel company. Travelers’ payments vary as those who pay for nicer hotels walk away with more money. Based on Malta’s current vaccination situation, they are the second behind the U.K. as 42% of their residents have received their first dose, which is one step closer to safe international travel. Malta expects around 35,000 tourists to participate in this exciting deal.

Now, if traveling over the summer is in the cards, then we need to make sure to take the necessary steps to ensure a safe traveling experience. We need to continue vaccinating at a fast rate. The faster we vaccinate, the quicker we can go back to our “normal” lives and travel. Here is our opportunity to see everything that Europe has to offer again.