Yesterday, the European Union announced it was ready to receive international travelers from 15 countries. The United States, which in the past has provided more than a billion euros in annual E.U. tourism revenue, was not on the list.
Due to the high COVID-19 infection rate in the U.S. and our general national pandemic leadership vacuum, we’ve become a pariah country. Yes, amazingly, U.S. citizens are no longer welcome in other countries. In this regard, we’ve been lumped in with India, Brazil, and Russia. This is sad news and disappointing for those of us whose lifestyles involves frequent travel.
What was not clear in the E.U. announcement were the details, wherein the “devil always lies”. Specifically, are U.S. passport holders in general restricted from entry into the E.U. or is it just travelers coming from the U.S.?
This is relevant, for example, for U.S. citizens who may actually be living in foreign countries and who have not been to the U.S. in several years. Surely, they’re not going to be banned from the E.U.?
Reciprocity is another factor in decisions about border restrictions. It’s often an issue with big E.U. countries such as France and Germany, and the fact is that the U.S. still bans entry for non-U.S. citizens from E.U. countries.
And, there’s another complication: some E.U. countries are making independent decisions; Greece and Portugal are said to be opening their borders to U.S travelers anyway but the process is not entirely clear yet.
Finally, we have the testing and quarantine requirements that some countries are talking about putting in place for all international (i.e non-E.U.) arrivals. I would not find a two-week quarantine (out of a planned six-week stay) too odious but that’s clearly a deal-killer for typical tourists planning a one- or two-week vacation.
Uncertainty about the safety and availability of air travel will deter many travelers for now. And, in a blow to the short-term rental market, some cities have used the global travel pause of the last few months to consider how to combat “over tourism”. Amsterdam, for example, just announced restrictions on Airbnb rentals within three downtown districts, limiting them to a total of 30 days of rentals per year.
What’s to be done? The U.E. and U.K. and many individual countries have pledged to review their policies every two weeks and to make adjustments as warranted. That’s good news but isn’t helpful for those of us in the U.S. right now. It may be that we have to leave here and travel to some “intermediate country” that will have us for a month, in order to establish our health and our isolation from the terrible infections in the U.S., before we can return to Europe.