Chaos and confusion over travel rules and measures to contain new virus outbreaks are contributing to another cruel summer for Europe’s battered tourism industry.
Popular destination countries are grappling with surging COVID-19 variants, but the patchwork and last-minute nature of the efforts as the peak season gets underway threatens to derail another summer.
In France, the world’s most visited country, visitors to cultural and tourist sites were confronted this week with a new requirement for a special COVID-19 pass.
To get the pass, which comes in paper or digital form, people must prove they’re either fully vaccinated or recently recovered from an infection, or produce a negative virus test. Use of the pass could extend next month to restaurants and cafes.
Italy said Thursday that people will need a similar pass to access museums and movie theaters, dine inside restaurants and cafes, and get into pools, casinos and a range of other venues.
At the Eiffel Tower, unprepared tourists lined up for quick virus tests so they could get the pass to visit the Paris landmark. Johnny Nielsen, visiting from Denmark with his wife and two children, questioned the usefulness of the French rules.
“If I get tested now, I can go but then I (could) get corona in the queue right here,” Nielsen said, though he added they wouldn’t change their plans because of it.
Juan Truque, a tourist from Miami, said he wasn’t vaccinated but took a test so he could travel to France via Spain with his mother.
“Now they are forcing you to wear masks and to do similar kind of things that are impositions to you. To me, they are violations to your freedom.” he said.
Europe’s vital travel and tourism industry is desperate to make up after a disastrous 2020. International tourist arrivals to Europe last year plunged by nearly 70%, and for the first five months of this year, they’re down 85%, according to U.N. World Tourism Organization figures.