CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — American tourists could soon be visiting continental Europe again, more than a year after the European Union restricted travel to the 27-nation bloc to a bare minimum to contain the coronavirus.
EU officials said Monday they are completing plans to allow Americans back this summer, depending on the course of the outbreak on both sides of the Atlantic.
“That is big news for every form of travel,” said travel expert Peter Greenburg.
The EU Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will make a proposal soon to its member states but didn’t say when exactly leisure travel could resume or whether a reciprocal approach will apply to Europeans wanting to visit the U.S., which has closed its doors to tourists from the continent.
Also, it was not immediately clear whether all U.S. tourists would have to produce proof of vaccination for entry, or whether a negative test for the coronavirus or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19 would be acceptable instead.
“These are among the questions we’ll still need to figure out,” European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said. Jahnz said the EU’s executive body is hoping to restore trans-Atlantic leisure travel “as soon as it is safe to do so.”
With more than 15 million Americans a year visiting Europe before the crisis, the prospect of U.S. travelers once more flocking to such attractions as the Eiffel Tower, the canals of Venice or Germany’s Brandenburg Gate is welcome news for the continent’s hard-hit tourism industry.
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The EU is putting the finishing touches to a system of certificates that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the region by the summer as long as they have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the disease.
Under the plan discussed with their U.S. counterparts, certificates issued in the United States could be integrated into the program.
As for Britain, no longer an EU member, Americans visiting the United Kingdom have to isolate for 10 days and take coronavirus tests before and after travel.
The United States still is advising against travel to 116 countries and Greenburg believes that doesn’t matter to most travelers now.
“It normally has a very negative effect on people’s decisions about travel. Not necessarily this time. People are getting vaccinated at a rate of nearly 4 million a day,” said Greenburg.
Greenburg also says that the big question will be how hotels fare as the tourism industry begins to boom again.
“We’re still dealing with 34% of all hotels in technical default, unable to make payments… They’re hoping for a turnaround and this may be the sign,” said Greenburg.
His number one piece of advice to future travelers is that if you want to travel domestically, take a car if it’s under 500 miles. For international travel, book with an American carrier so you have a better chance of a refund if something happens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.