EU summer tourism slumps on new Covid-19 variants

Photo: EPA Tourists enjoy the sunny warm weather at Peguera beach in Calvia, Mallorca, Spain.

The summer tourist season across the European Union is under heavy pressure as new Covid-19 variants prompt different Member States to impose partial pandemic related restrictions. The countries lack a coordination on introduction of measures which make the most popular destinations hard to reach. Tourists from US, Asia are not enthusiastic to travel amid uncertainty of potential lockdowns, AP reported.

In France, the world’s most visited country, visitors to cultural and tourist sites were confronted with a new requirement for a special Covid-19 pass. To get the pass, which comes in paper or digital form, people must prove they are either fully vaccinated or recently recovered from an infection, or produce a negative virus test. Use of the pass could extend next month to restaurants and cafes.

Italy announced that people would need a similar pass to access museums and movie theaters, dine inside restaurants and cafes, and get into pools, casinos and a range of other venues.

Europe’s vital travel and tourism industry is desperate to make up after a disastrous 2020. International tourist arrivals to Europe last year slumped by nearly 70%, and for the first five months of 2021. They’re down 85%, according to UN World Tourism Organization figures. American, Japanese and Chinese travelers aren’t confident it will be possible to visit and move freely within Europe, the European Travel Commission said. International arrivals are forecast to remain at nearly 50% their 2019 level this year, though domestic demand will help make up the shortfall.

But some countries are showing signs of a rebound. Spain, the world’s second-most visited country, received 3.2 million tourists from January to May, which is a tenth of the amount in the same period of 2019. But visits surged in June with 2.3 million arrivals, the best monthly figure since the start of the pandemic, although still only 75% of the figure from two years ago. Spain Minister of Tourism, Fernando Valdés, credited the European Union’s deployment in June of its digital Covid-19 vaccine passport for having a “a positive impact” on foreign arrivals.

In Greece, where Covid-19 infections are also rising sharply, authorities have openly expressed concern that slowing vaccination rates could hurt the struggling tourism industry, a mainstay of the economy. Authorities have tightened restrictions for unvaccinated tourists and residents, banning their entry to all indoor dining and entertainment venues.

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