Would-be summer travelers to Europe will likely have to keep their plans on hold as the European Union considers a ban on international travelers from the United States, Brazil and Russia. Composed of 27 European countries from Ireland in the west to Romania in the east, the EU was scheduled to re-open its borders to international visitors next week on the first of July.
New and seemingly unabated coronavirus infections in the US, Brazil and Russia appear to be prompting EU decision-makers to consider anew the risk of importing infections into Europe. In a sign of how much has changed over the past few months, China, where the first cases of coronavirus were reported last winter, is not on the list of countries whose citizens are to be banned.
For Americans, the proposed extension triggers a cascade of unknowns about future travel starting with getting there. While there are a few flights available, if the EU blocks US travelers the already diminished demand will shrivel even more. TAP Portugal, which recently announced it would begin additional service to Lisbon from Boston and Miami is proceeding though Gareth Edmonson-Jones, a spokesman for the airline said traveler demand will certainly be taken into account.
On arrival in Europe, there are more unknowns, the availability and restrictions related to accommodations and ground transportation, especially for car, train and bus journeys that cross borders. The EU has prepared an easy-to-use online tool to help travelers navigate both the EU wide and country-specific rules.
Without belittling how coronavirus has laid low tourist-dependent economies, there is an upside to the proposed draconian measure to close Europe to US travelers. Americans make up the largest segment of foreign tourists on the continent so the summer of 2020 could be the season many Europeans get to enjoy their communities without the usual influx from across the Atlantic. Keep in mind, five of the world’s 10 most visited places are in Europe.
Overtourism, a subject much discussed over the past few years, brings congestion to city centers, recreational and heritage areas. It drives up the price of food and housing and stresses the environment. It is a problem in Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Prague, Amsterdam, and you may have seen it first-hand elsewhere.
Organizations like the Center for Responsible Travel and destinationcenter.org are two groups focused on how visitors can be welcomed in sustainable ways. And while this work largely addresses destination decision-makers, there’s no reason travelers can’t ask the same questions while planning their next vacation.
In his article on the corona crisis for Destination Center, Jonathan Tourtellote takes this glass-is-half-full approach. A time of quiet can be a reset, used to consider how travel can be made more responsible. Shun the urge to “restore the status quo” he writes.
If while sheltering at home you’ve confined your virtual wanderings to the postcard producing, greatest hits of destinations, let the likely interruption in the well-worn route to Europe inspire you to get creative about where you go next, so that travel will enrich you as well as those who call that place you visited, their home.
Click here for the list of destinations that are doing it right.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.