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Industry groups hit out at EU ‘patchwork’ of restrictions

Europe’s leading travel associations have called on EU member states to align travel rules and avoid “a patchwork system”, warning against unilateral moves to shorten the validity of vaccination certificates.

Associations representing airlines, airports, cruise lines, tour operators, travel agents, online agents and travel tech companies note “several EU member states continue to act unilaterally, adopting a different validity period” for the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) “as well as diverging [on] rules regarding children and young adults”.

In a joint statement, the associations – including Airlines for Europe (A4E), airports association ACI Europe, cruise association CLIA, the European travel agents and tour operators’ association ECTAA and European tourism association ETOA – singled out France, Italy, Denmark and Malta for criticism for deciding “to shorten the validity of vaccination passes for national use”.

They note that, while the European Commission announced in December that the DCC would be valid for nine months without a booster, these EU countries “decided to shorten the validity of vaccination passes to seven or three months”.

The associations add that since the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19: “A number of countries have also introduced additional testing requirements [for vaccinated EU travellers], going against the current Council recommendations.

They criticise the “emerging new patchwork of rules across Europe”, saying: “The emerging discrepancies are worrying.

“The Commission recommends EU member states apply the same DCC validity period . . . Member states should align with the recommendations as they are agreed and updated.

“This inconsistency . . . affects the ability of passengers and businesses to plan and schedule future trips and holiday bookings. As a result, the industry still faces booking rates at least 30% below 2021 levels.

“This will have a direct impact on families wanting to travel for the winter holidays and later this spring.”

The associations note the most recent guidance of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) “focussed on strengthening non-pharmaceutical interventions including avoiding large gatherings, extended use of face masks, reduced contacts . . . in social or work settings, teleworking and reduced inter-household mixing – it has not included travel restrictions.

“We urge governments to stop deviating from this consistent approach.”

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