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Revisiting Travel Policies in Europe

March 1, 2022

Travel requirements

Europe is reopening. The requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take tests is reducing, as is the need to present certification in destination. The focus is shifting from the complexity of restrictions to the nature of a long-term enabling framework to assure freedom of movement at borders and in destination. Such a framework will be necessary whenever circumstances require a reintroduction of public health measures and verification of individuals’ status.

An EU policy success has been the development of its digital covid certificate, EU DCC, whose framework currently includes 62 countries (27 EU and 35 Non-EU), with more pending. Originally intended as a temporary measure, the enabling legislation must soon be renewed. That does not mean a requirement to present health credentials should continue any longer than necessary, but it increases the likelihood that the EU’s scheme becomes the reference standard others adopt.

For long-haul markets, the European Council’s recent revised recommendation that member states should accept non-EU travellers with WHO approved vaccines is welcome. Currently, while most EU/EFTA member states no longer require testing for fully vaccinated travellers, the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ and acceptance of WHO approved vaccines not yet approved by the EMA is still subject to national variation, as are rules for children and the acceptance in destination of certification deemed sufficient to cross borders.

As cross-border product is among Europe’s most popular offer in its valuable long-haul markets, the practical consequences of fragmentation remain severe: multi-country holidays entail multiple passenger locator forms (PLFs) and other forms of self-declarations. The EU’s standard PLF has not been widely adopted, and this appears unlikely to change now that national systems are firmly embedded. Visitors from countries whose health credentials are not within the EU DCC framework have additional obstacles.

For our current database of links to government resources for prevailing travel requirements, please click on below banner. It includes an overview of prevailing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors and lists the PLF(s) and other forms that may be required for each country.

Tourism and Tax

The EU is developing policy proposals to replace the current tour operators margin (TOMS) scheme, whereby EU operators and agents avoid the need to register in all the various countries in which they deliver product, and destinations retain the VAT charged by services enjoyed there. At issue is how to evolve a regime which rewards value-adding in both the EU and its source markets, keeping administrative burdens low and ensuring an equitable distribution of economic benefit.

Risks are clear. Germany’s proposal to require non-EU entities to register for VAT, and to collect VAT on the retail price of holidays in Germany sold to consumers anywhere in the world was thankfully suspended for a second time, not least due to pressure from regional governments and industry groups but is widely expected to be implemented from 1st January 2023. That this would damage the German inbound industry seems curiously secondary to regulatory dogma. Tourism’s ecosystem is unlike any other and needs a regulatory framework and long-term strategy to match.

Supporting Exports

At the heart of Europe’s competitiveness is its export economy. However, due to the way industries are classified by statisticians and tourism’s cross-cutting nature, a recent report EU exports to the world: effects on employment does not identify tourism as one of Europe’s most important exports.

Partly, the problem is one of perception: how can a holiday enjoyed in Europe be an export? But, if it is sold to a business or consumer outside the EU, indeed it is. ​​​​​The business of packaging product, which takes place both in the EU and its source markets, is an essential part of the value-adding which ultimately benefits the European supply chain.

ETOA and its partners will continue to work hard to promote the value of tourism exports – to businesses across Europe who need long-haul demand to complement intra-European and domestic clients, as well as policy makers trying to design a framework well-adapted to Europe’s long-term interests.

Risky Business – Collective Redress and the Tourism industry

Collective redress, or representative action, is the subject of the EU’s representative action directive. This must be transposed by member states before the end of 2022 and will be in force mid-2023. Given the high degree of consumer protection in tourism, with its established and largely effective methods of redress that minimise the need for litigation, this is undesirable and unnecessary. The need to adapt the regulatory framework to suit a changing marketplace is clear but encouraging the development of a speculative claims handling industry could well prove counter-productive. To learn more, please register for this expert webinar on 23rd March at 11h00 CET organised by ECTAA and ETOA.

Courtesy of ETOA Policy Update.