European travel: confusion must end

There is growing concern at the emerging patchwork of border and Covid testing rules across Europe and its impact on the safe recovery of travel.  A host of travel organisations and businesses led by the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association is urging governments to stop deviating from the consistent approach proposed by European Commission, and ensure a clear and harmonised process at a European level.

Europe has seen a surge in COVID cases and the spread of the latest and highly transmittable variant, Omicron.

Whilst the European Commission announced in December 2021 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 Council Recommendations. This inconsistency in travel restrictions across the EU directly impinges on individual passengers and businesses to schedule future trips.

The travel industry supports the European Commission, which says a harmonised validity period for the DCC is a necessity for safe free movement and EU level coordination. Although the Commission recommends EU Member States to apply the same DCC validity period for intra-EU travel and national level, the emerging discrepancies are worrying. Member States should align with the Council Recommendations as they are agreed and updated so that travel between Member States is possible under equal conditions across the EU at all times.

Economic and tourism recovery is unlikely before 2023. Southern European countries have been particularly affected.