With summer just around the corner, citizens and tourism companies are wondering what if there will be vacations and what they will be like in the new normality left by the Covid-19. With the aim of saving the tourist season and helping companies in the sector, the European Commission has published a guide on how to travel in times of post-pandemic (and until the long-awaited vaccine arrives).
Will I be able to travel abroad this summer?
Resuming trips to see the family, for leisure or for work will be possible. The Commission supports it as long as the epidemiological conditions at the destination occur. From Brussels they see more plausible that the de-escalation happens country by country and not a block exit from the confinement. “The approach must be flexible, including the possibility of reintroducing some measures if the health situation requires it,” the document details.
The Commission recommends that countries take these criteria into account when reopening borders:
- Epidemiological, giving priority to the areas and Member States where the situation “is improving”. But with what reference? According to the regional map on which the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control works.
- The ability to implement containment measures (physical distancing, hygiene …) throughout the trip, including border points.
- Economic and social considerations. Cross-border movements in key areas of “health, social and economic activity” will have priority.
The lifting of border restrictions must begin between regions or States with similar epidemiological situations. This not only affects neighboring countries: when restrictions between two regions are lifted, the same treatment should be extended to all regions of Europe where the health situation is comparable. Thus, the Commission emphasizes the “principle of non-discrimination: all citizens of the country and all its residents must be on equal terms.
How are the phases recommended by Brussels?
Phase 0 (current situation): There are restrictions for non-essential travel. Member States still need to allow workers, in particular transport, border workers, displaced persons and service providers to cross borders and have unhindered access to their workplace, especially for essential services and the passage of goods .
Phase 1: Travel restrictions and border controls should be phased out across the EU, starting between regions, areas and Member States with a positive and sufficiently evolving epidemiological situation. During this phase, a gradual transition towards lifting restrictions on professional and personal travel and tourism should be facilitated.
Phase 2: All restrictions and controls related to coronavirus must be lifted at internal borders, while maintaining the necessary health measures. Travel for any purpose should be allowed across the Union.
How can I get information on where there are still restrictions?
Member States should regularly report the status of restrictions. The Commission will collect on its website the list of internal border controls established at any time, as well as links to other relevant information for travelers (to local health situation, health services, applicable health protocols, etc.)
What protocols should be followed when traveling?
The collective means of transport (airplanes, boats, buses or trains) will have passenger limitations so that the distance rules are met, although the EC has not yet established what they will be. In addition, it is advisable to put barriers between the driver and the passengers, in the necessary means, and that the planes suspend the food service during the flight or the sale of articles. On the other hand, it is recommended to implant adequate ventilation systems and have a protocol to follow in the event that a passenger is detected to have symptoms compatible with the Covid-19.
Brussels advises travelers to buy tickets online and check in also via the web. In addition, they must carry disinfecting gels.
Do I have to wear a mask?
Passengers must wear masks on public transport, especially where physical distance measures cannot be fully implemented at all times. They do not need to be medical masks. The national health authorities will specify the exact requirements according to the types of transport, the epidemiological risk in that country, the availability of masks and other considerations. However, it is recommended that transport workers be equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment.
Will Europe track my movements?
The European Commission has agreed, together with the Member States, the use of mobile applications that allow the possible contacts of an infected person to be followed – within the entire European Union – and to alert them if they have been exposed to this risk. However, the use of these applications must be voluntary, transparent and temporary. Only health authorities will have access to this data and can only be used in relation to the current pandemic. These systems use the proximity technology provided by Bluetooth, but do not allow tracking of the movements of individuals.
Can I get money back from canceled trips?
Brussels is advising tourism companies to use vouchers as an alternative to reimbursement for those trips that have had to be canceled due to Covid-19. Brussels recommends that travelers choose these vouchers if the conditions offered are adequate due to the liquidity problems facing tourism companies, although they will have the right to demand the money paid.
If the cancellation has been made by the transport company, passengers have the right to recover their money (since the modification of the reservation with the choice of a new destination is not applicable given the current situation). In the case of plane or boat tickets, the money must be paid within seven days after the moment the passenger requests the refund; if it is a bus trip, the return may take up to 14 days, while rail transport will have one month to make these payments.
Those who have contracted organized trips and are suspended by the responsible company, will be entitled to a full refund of the money paid during the 14 days after the end of the contract. However, the company may offer the traveler a voucher as an alternative.
Payments: some member states have already used the Temporary aid framework from the EU to provide direct grants of up to € 800,000 or highly favorable loans or guarantees for larger amounts; or, in some cases, to grant compensation to companies for damages suffered due to the pandemic. The EU has also made 1 billion euros available as collateral for the European Investment Fund, which will leverage a loan guarantee of 8 billion euros to help 100,000 SMEs, including tourism ones.
Work protection: On April 2, the Commission proposed a new temporary support instrument to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency (SURE). It will allow financial assistance of up to € 100 billion in the form of EU loans to affected Member States to support short-term work plans
Sponsorship Coupons: They can be bought by consumers from small providers in the tourism sector affected by the crisis (restaurants, Bed & Breakfasts, small hotels) and exchanged for services once businesses are reopened. The small provider immediately receives the money paid for the coupon, which helps him in terms of cash flow. For consumers, vouchers offer the opportunity to support their favorite providers and help them survive the crisis.