The European Union decided Wednesday to add the United States to its safe travel list, meaning it will be easier for American citizens to take a vacation in one of the 27 member states, two EU sources have confirmed to CNBC.
The decision signals optimism for free movement and economic growth in 2021, changing the travel restriction trajectory that has dealt the hospitality industry a plunging blow.
Nonessential travel from the United States and from other places had been banned in the EU in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to avoid further contagion. However, as vaccinations gather pace, the 27 EU ambassadors based in Brussels recommended on Wednesday that the region allow nonessential travelers from eight new countries and territories.
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These are the U.S., Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.
In an interview with The New York Times in April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that fully vaccinated American tourists would be allowed to visit the bloc this summer.
But this new EU recommendation could go one step further in allowing U.S. tourists to visit with only a negative test and avoid the need for a period of quarantine. It is now up to the individual EU countries to decide how they will implement the guidelines and allow tourists to enter. Travelers should confirm the rules on their intended destination before flying.
Individual EU nations have taken their own measures to open up travel to international visitors, including from the United States.
Several EU member countries have already opened their doors, including Greece, Italy and Spain, to U.S. visitors with proof of a vaccine, proof of a recent, negative Covid-19 test, or a combination of both. The U.S. still bars most non-citizens who have recently been in the EU from visiting the U.S., however.
Airlines on both sides of the Atlantic have urged governments to open trans-Atlantic travel up for the key summer season and have added service whenever a country reopens its borders.
Wednesday’s recommendation at the EU level aims to coordinate the travel rules across the bloc and should be finalized in coming days, following the national decisions from each member state.
One notable absence from the exemption list is the United Kingdom, where almost half of the population is currently fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
One EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject, said nonessential travel from the U.K. remains banned “due to the delta variant.”
The U.K. government earlier this week delayed a plan to lift all coronavirus restrictions this month due to rising infections. A recent surge in the number of Covid cases is linked to the delta variant first discovered in India, which is believed to be around 60% more infectious than previous variants of the virus.
The U.K. is now hoping that more vaccinations in the next four weeks will allow it to end all coronavirus measures on July 19.
The U.S. meanwhile continues to block entry from most non-U.S.-citizens who have been in Britain in the last two weeks. The White House last week said it is setting up a working group with Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Europe to figure out how to reopen travel.