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EU guidance to restrict US travel raises uncertainty for cruise lines

PHOTO: ANNE KALOSH CRUISE_Rome_Photo_Anne_Kalosh.jpg
Italy will now require vaccinated US travelers to also get a COVID test prior to arrival, to avoid quarantine, Here, queueing up to tour the Vatican
The EU's recommendation that member states restrict nonessential travel from the US presents headwinds as more lines resume ocean and river cruises in Europe.

On Monday the EU Council removed the US from the 'safe travel' list of countries that exempts visitors from restrictions like quarantine and testing requirements. This is nonbinding and it's up to each member state whether they follow the guidance.

Uncertainty and confusion

The EU decision increases uncertainty and causes confusion, cruise operators and retailers said.

'It has been confusing all day,' said Jean Newman Glock, managing director, communications and public affairs, Signature Travel Network. 'The reports that new restrictions were only for unvaccinated travelers are incorrect, at least for Italy. We are waiting for other EU countries to announce what they are doing. 

'At the moment, Italy is the only country that has updated its restrictions and as of August 31, they now require vaccinated travelers to also get a COVID test prior to arrival, to avoid quarantine,' Newman Glock said, citing the travel site Sherpa.

Reviewed every two weeks

Every two weeks the EU reviews the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted. Its current criteria include not more than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous 14 days, whether variants of concern have been detected and reciprocity, among several other factors.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Friday tallied the US infection rate at approximately 600 new cases per 100,000 for the two weeks ending Aug. 22.

The US has been included in the safe travel list for the EU's 27 member states since mid-June, and numerous US-based cruise lines have been resuming river and ocean sailings in Europe. An increasing number of those lines are mandating full vaccination

'Disappointing development'

The turnaround is a 'disappointing development following the boost in inbound visitation by vaccinated travelers that many EU countries experienced this summer,' said Tori Emerson Barnes, EVP public affairs and policy, US Travel Association. '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.'

Calling travel a 'crucial component of the global economy' and 'necessary for a full recovery from the economic devastation of the pandemic,' Emerson Barnes encouraged the EU to remain open to vaccinated Americans, while also urging the US to 'take immediate steps to begin welcoming vaccinated individuals and restoring our travel economy.'

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