Amidst the receding numbers of COVID-19 cases in Europe, the European Commission is working on a strategy to reopen tourism business. The Commission is planning to work out a modality that will ensure safety measures as a way to sustain the plan.
The coronavirus pandemic has compelled European governments to initiate lockdowns that have nearly crippled the tourism sector of its economy. The EU leaders are counting on the receding number of cases to open as many sectors as possible. But it is a herculean task that requires an unusual strategy in order to avoid a second wave of the pandemic infection.
The Commission is looking at a three-phase approach to reopening the borders connecting member states. Considering the risk of infection, Europe’s disease control agency (ECDC) will be drafted to keep a list of areas with low infection rate. The idea is to use the circulation rate to determine if the “blanket quarantine measures” within Schengen can be scrapped.
As part of the strategy, member states will be required to enjoy some measure of freedom based on the non-discrimination on nationality rules. That means every EU citizen will enjoy the right of movement granted to a particular state.
With some European countries already in economic straits, the Commission appears determined to minimize as much as possible the impact of the pandemic on member states.
Tourism is a major source of revenue to EU nations and has been dampened by the safety restrictions aimed at curtailing the outbreak. The statement released by the Commission said the pandemic will cost the global tourism industry up to 400 billion euros this year.
Part of the goal of the EU Commission is to map out EU members and regions that will be most affected by the plunge, using the data from the Joint Research Center (JRC).
While there is unison between member states, challenges abound in critical areas that may jeopardize the progress that have been made so far in the fight against coronavirus. The areas include hygiene, social-distancing and transport services. The draft is aiming for a coordinated approach that prohibits discrimination against member states just as it is applicable in other areas.
According to the document, the hygiene, transport and social-distancing measures should be risk-based and proportionate.
“General principles will support prioritizing the resumption of transport services for all nodes. It should be limited in scope and duration to what is necessary to protect public health,” the document said.
The JRC interactive map will contain needed travel information which will include the latest border controls, measures and travel conditions. Travelers will be expected to consult the map to help them plan their journey efficiently, deciding whether to make a trip or not.
However, that poses another challenge that the Commission has made decisions on – flight cancellation and the use of vouchers. The draft made provision for refund in case of cancellation under the heading; “Preserving consumer protection while addressing the issue of reimbursement claims.”
The EU’s law said a total refund will be made to a passenger in the case of cancellation of flights. Though the rule offers room for vouchers, it is up to the passenger to decide whether or not to accept it.
Some Members of European Parliament (MEP) and most of the member states are asking that the Commission propose a temporary waiver for that tenet in order to help travel companies preserve liquidity and offer coupons instead.
But the EU executive said there must be a refund to serve as de facto safety net for passengers though the guidelines will suggest a common rulebook for vouchers so that companies can try to make them as attractive as possible.
Part of the common rulebook will include insolvency protection, transferability options and a guarantee that they will be valid for a cash refund at the end of a one-year expiry date. And as part of the measures, the Commission said that protection against company bankruptcies should be organized on national level.
“This will strengthen European citizens’ confidence on which the transport, travel and tourism industry should re-build their recovery,” the draft said.
The greatest fear however, remains that attempts to open the tourism sector will enable the spread of the crisis. With so many states in Europe still struggling to contain the pandemic, it will be a risk that may cost more than the EU Commission is trying to gain.