The European Commission has released a comprehensive package on tourism and transport. The package sets out plans for a phased restart to tourism and travel across the EU. The plans aim to save millions of jobs within the tourism sector which have been threatened by the onset of the Coronavirus. In total, the tourism sector accounts for 10% of GDP, and 12% of jobs, within the EU.
The package consists of guidelines and recommendations to help EU countries gradually lift travel restrictions and allow businesses to reopen in the hope of ensuring that “people in Europe can benefit from a safe and relaxing summer after months of confinement” However, these plans are all dependant on Covid-19 infection rates remaining low. While decisions about reopening borders fall to the national governments, the Commission is calling for a common EU-wide approach to lifting movement restrictions which will be done in a gradual and coordinated way. The EU is proposing a three-stage approach, starting with the current situation in which most non-essential travel across borders is banned. In the next phase, the EU wants border restrictions lifted between countries and regions at a similar stage of the pandemic, and where the health situation is improving. In the final phase, all coronavirus-related border controls would be lifted and travel permitted throughout Europe once again.
The package also outlines that individuals must be offered reimbursement for cancelled flights in cash or via a voucher, with a voucher only being acceptable if the passenger has agreed to it. “You have the legally protected choice between reimbursement in money or a voucher. Given the liquidity problems of the carriers and organisers, you could consider to choose a voucher if the conditions are attractive,” said Commissioner Margarethe Vestager. She added, “If you have lost your job, if this is your entire holiday budget for travelling that sits in these tickets you cannot use any more, then you need a refund. And that is why we say this is your right, full stop.” The Commissioner also outlined that letters were being sent to the member states failing to force airlines to respect passengers’ rights.
Additionally, travellers should wear face coverings while on shared transport such as planes, trains and buses — as well as at hubs such as airports and railway stations, under the EU recommendations. Fewer passengers may be allowed on board to allow them to maintain safe distancing, and buffet trolleys and dining cars will be shuttered. Hotels and restaurants will be urged to limit guest numbers so they can respect social distancing rules.