With the pandemic’s impact on travel and tourism having entered its third year, communication and collaboration between EU member states has still not been optimized in the alignment of travel rules and regulation, even with the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This will prolong recovery.
The EU Digital Covid Certificate is not enough
According to GlobalData, international arrivals to Europe increased by 74.2% YoY in 2021, reaching 53.3% of 2019 levels. This start to recovery would have been driven by intra-regional travel between EU member states, aided by the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This new piece of regulation has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the EU’s tourism recovery, but it is not enough. Greater levels of collaboration are needed between states, which has not happened.
The Omicron variant has pushed many member states into enforcing new rules around entry and freedom of movement when in the destination. The range of entry requirements and regulation from state to state nullifies the positive impact of the COVID Certificate as uncertainty remains. According to GlobalData’s Q4 2021 Consumer Survey, 65% of European respondents were still either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding the pandemic. A fragmented approach to the movement of travelers around the EU will create ongoing uncertainty among tourists and will contribute to an uneven recovery across the EU.
Some member states only require an EU Digital COVID Certificate for entry, while some have implemented a variety of additional rules such as Italy, which requires arrivals from the EU to present a passenger locator form, proof of either full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19, and a negative COVID test result. Understandably, countries such as Italy are airing on the side of caution in terms of entry requirements. However, enforcing significantly different requirements will prolong its own and the EU’s recovery, as well as diluting the impact of the EU COVID Certificate.
Further confusion could be imminent
From February, 1 2022, The Commission stated that EU vaccination certificates should remain valid for a period of 270 days after the second dose is received. However, member states have been able to decide independently regarding their time measures. This has led to countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands reducing the validity of these certificates by several months, creating further confusion for travelers as member states select different periods of time.
Coordination is imperative for the recovery of the EU’s tourism industry. With the Commission only seeming to be able to offer advice and recommendations in many cases, member states will likely continue to embark on an ununified approach that will prolong recovery.