Today, the latest big milestone in travel has been cleared — Europe is reopening for business to global travelers. The European Union is recommending its 27-member nations can start lifting the restrictions they’ve placed on travelers from the U.S.
Now on the list of open nations, Americans can visit Europe for nonessential reasons like tourism. EU members voted today (June 16) during a meeting of permanent representatives to the bloc. The recommendation is non-binding. EU members can open or not and set whatever testing or vaccination requirements they wish.
Ready To Resume?
It is important to note that there are still logistical issues to confront here. Though the travel industry has wished for reopening of this kind, hurdles remain.
While EU nations have been developing a QR-coded-based passport system that allows carriers to easily flash their status as they reach and cross travel checkpoints, the U.S. has not developed a similar system and has no plans to. American travelers to Europe may get one if they can convince authorities in the nations they are visiting to issue them one. That, it seems, remains an open question hanging over reopening EU travel to Americans.
Some EU nations like Croatia, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina have already opened to American tourists ahead of the official EU all clear — but other nations remain reluctant.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said this week a careful and phased-in approach should remain the rule.
“Let’s look at science and let’s look at the progress. Let’s look at the numbers and when it’s safe, we will do it,” De Croo said. “The moment that we see that a big part of the population is double-vaccinated and can prove that they are safe, travel will pick up again. And I would expect that over the course of this summer.”
Beyond travel restrictions and requirements, there is also the small issue of travel players having to get back up to the capacity to handle an expected dramatic uptick in customers this summer.
The three largest U.S. carriers — American, United and Delta — have announced they are currently hiring or will do so before the end of the year. They also plan to bring back employees furloughed during the pandemic and are looking toward expansion. Southwest, which cut less of its staff during the pandemic than its three larger rivals, said it is preparing its own hiring process as well.
“I think the current carriers are eager to get as many flights back in the air as possible,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told CNN.” At the beginning of 2020, all [of the airlines] said they’d be hiring thousands. Really what we’re doing is catching back up where we’re supposed to be.”
The labor group expects the number of flight attendants on the job to rise from 80,000 today to 100,000 within two years.
And ready or not, here come the travelers. Forecasts have been circulating for weeks that consumer travel is set to spike domestically in summer 2021 — and as of today, it seems Europe will be open for business very soon.
What’s left to see is all the places consumers will go when the doors are officially open — and if the industry is actually ready to take on a sudden surge of consumer interest in getting on the road again.