Travel industry leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed disappointment in the EU’s recommendation that the United States be removed from its list of ‘safe’ countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted.
In a statement, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said: “This is a disappointing development following the boost in inbound visitation by vaccinated travellers that many EU countries experienced this summer.
“It’s a setback despite the uptake in vaccinations—the tool that’s highly effective against the variants—which are on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic.”
“Travel is a crucial component of the global economy and will be necessary for a full recovery from the economic devastation of the pandemic,” she continued.
“We encourage the EU to remain open to vaccinated Americans, and likewise urge the United States to take immediate steps to begin welcoming vaccinated individuals and restoring our travel economy.”
International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh also expressed his disappointment and emphasised the importance of the vaccine programmes.
He said: “While this is a disappointing development for businesses and people who rely on travel, the data from the US and Israel supports the value and benefit of vaccination.
“As governments rightly urge their populations to be vaccinated, governments need to be confident in the benefits they bring—including the freedom to travel. At a minimum, those who are fully vaccinated should be free to move without restriction.”
In Ireland, the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) has called on Government to provide urgent clarity on its next steps following the EU recommendations.
CTTC chairperson John Halpenny said: “The latest recommendations issued by the EU will do little to boost consumer confidence Stateside.
“If implemented, these new guidelines will make it virtually impossible for US tourists to travel to Ireland, and will, in essence, block access to a key market for both the coach tourism and hospitality sectors – two industries which have borne the brunt of the economic damage inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“As a sector, we are seeking immediate clarity from Government on whether they intend to adopt the EU Council recommendations, and if so, how they plan to assist coach tour operators in offsetting the losses which will no doubt occur as a result.
“Over the last number of weeks, CTTC members have put their shoulders to the wheel, and made the necessary preparations, to accommodate international tourists from the American market, who we anticipated, would visit Ireland in the coming period.
“The looming uncertainty as a result of this announcement will undoubtedly jeopardise these plans. Coach tourism is a low margin activity in most cases, so it is vital that we gain immediate clarity on how Government intends to respond to the EU’s recommendations.”
The CTTC is Ireland’s largest representative body for coach touring companies and private bus operators.
So far, the Government has not responded to the recommendations. But as ITTN reported yesterday, sources within the Department of Foreign Affairs have said there is “no appetite” to restore mandatory hotel quarantine for U.S. visitors.