ROME, (The Southern African Times) – Earlier this week, the European Union recommended that member states reinstate travel restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States, but some analysts don’t expect the change to have a significant impact on the bloc’s recovering tourism sector.
Some member states, such as Italy and Bulgaria have followed the EU instructions. Even before the recommendation, Germany had tightened restrictions, blocking the arrival of unvaccinated travelers who had recently spent time in the United States from entering unless they could prove an “important reason” for entering the country.
But in most of the rest of the bloc, travelers from the United States can arrive as they did before the guidelines were announced, though any individual state can choose to adjust its entry rules unilaterally. At least one country, Portugal, even announced it had no plans to place restrictions on travelers from the United States.
The EU placed the United States on its “safe list” in June, though the United States did not offer the same status to EU travelers arriving in the United States.
The latest changes come as European economies were experiencing strong economic growth in the wake of 2020 when widespread lockdowns caused economic growth in Europe to slow dramatically.
Tourism plays a big part in the European economic recovery plans, especially in countries like Italy, where tourism accounted for 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product before the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.
But according to Gianfranco Lorenzo, head of research at the Center for Touristic Studies in Florence, the new restrictions on travelers from the United States were unlikely to have an impact on the tourism sector recovery.
“Before the pandemic, Italy saw six million travelers a year from the United States, but last year it was only 400,000, a reduction of 92 percent,” Lorenzo told Xinhua.
“That is not to say that travelers from the United States aren’t important,” he said. “My point is that the recovery of the tourism sector has been happening largely without visitors from the United States… even if their numbers are reduced, the impacts will be minimal, and the restrictions are not permanent.”
The travel restrictions were put in place after a significant spike in the coronavirus infection rate in the United States in recent weeks.