Policy & Destination Update, December 2021

Reasons to be Cheerful?

The rapid spread of the omicron variant has had a predictable consequence: irrational policy. Protecting public health services from being overwhelmed is essential, but closing borders to vaccinated travellers will not help. The ECDC and others have found no evidence that it helps control hospitalisation or mortality. Fully vaccinated and negative-tested travellers are low risk. But, once again, cross-border holiday plans are thrown into chaos, operators and the hospitality industry are in despair. Financial support measures, a mainstay of the first period of the pandemic, are notably absent.

Against this backdrop, optimism is hard to find. Nevertheless, there are strong grounds for hope: despite short-term political panic, cross-border travel for vaccinated travellers is recognised as an economic and social necessity (our sustainability partners, CELTH, have recently published a report on tourism’s societal value). Visitor flows will surely return, and we have much improved systems and infrastructure to cope. To add to intra-European visitors, there is large latent demand among highly vaccinated populations in North America, Asia and other source markets for whom Europe is still a top destination.

From all of us at ETOA, thank you to all our members for your continued solidarity and support. Happy Christmas, and a hopeful New Year!

Policy and destination Updates

Travel restrictions

The travel restrictions database on our COVID-19 resources page is being reviewed and the latest version will be published later today. The content in the database covers border entry requirements for tourism visitors and in-destination certification requirements for each EU and EFTA member state and the United Kingdom. Recent changes affecting border entry are also communicated on the COVID-19 resources page.

To help with navigation the content in columns L to O of the database has been amended to refer to fully vaccinated visitors where certification accepted (requirements for non-vaccinated adults can still be found in the government weblinks provided). Column D highlights some points to note concerning the destination country.

German VAT

After a week of well-informed speculation, on 1st December Germany’s Ministry of Finance issued formal notice to regional governments that the intended change to VAT arrangement would again be postponed. This was a lobbying success for ETOA, its partners and its active members.

The change would have required non-EU operators and agents selling to consumers to register for VAT in Germany and pay a new sales tax on the retail price. But risk and uncertainty remain for any non-EU agent or operator selling Germany product to consumers, departing January 2023 onwards.

While our targeted lobbying has been successful two years running, we cannot be complacent. It is essential that ETOA can provide better illustration of the adverse impact of Germany’s proposed VAT policy, pending an EU-wide solution. Commission consultations on topic will continue in 2022.

Any non-EU operator selling German product to consumers will be affected. We need to understand whether they will sell less German product, increase prices, or both. In the new year, we will invite you to contribute your insight: thanks in advance for your vital support and engagement.

Italy: “proximity law”

Italy’s “proximity law” provides a legal basis for requiring anyone who has been in close contact with a positive-testing individual to isolate, even if they themselves have tested negative. This includes members of a group tour. General guidance (in Italian) available here.

In practice, it appears that group isolation is very rare. If a group member tests positive prior to returning home, it is usual that only they and their travelling companion sharing a room will be required to isolate. The law is subject to regional and local interpretation.

A hotel may typically have a medico competente, or appointed medical specialist whom they would notify of a positive test result. The medico competente will liaise with the azienda sanitaria locale (AZL) to decide next steps. Experience suggests that intelligent discretion informs decisions.

Relevant factors include length of time other group members will have spent in close proximity with the positive-testing individual. Mitigation includes following safe travel protocols, and sufficient insurance so that costs of any clients’ self-isolation are covered, those testing positive and not.

Practical challenges are evident: a hotel (or operator) cannot stop a negative-testing participant leaving for the airport. The airline will generally only require proof of negative test and completed PLF, neither of which are affected by the proximity law.

Group Tourism working group

On 1st December ETOA held a Group Tourism working group meeting with tour operator members to discuss the current and projected challenges and opportunities for group tourism for end 2021 and 2022. Some of the topics discussed were:

  • Insurance and liability
  • Last minute bookings and cancellations
  • 2022 contracting
  • Amsterdam VMR
  • Current COVID restrictions
  • Tour guiding implications due to Brexit

The next meeting will be held in March 2022. Registrations for the meeting will open early 2022 and will be shared via this policy update.

Upcoming Free Webinars

ETOA Webinar ‘Prospects for inbound tourism into Wales’

Our industry experts will discuss the prospects for recovery in 2022, and what is needed to capitalise on future demand. We will also cover how suppliers might use the travel industry to distribute their products.

When: Monday, 20th December 2021
Time: 16:00 GMT

Register here

ETOA Travel Trade Masterclass | North American demand

This is a webinar designed for the European supply-chain exploring demand from the North American market to European destinations. In this session, guest panellists will discuss prospects for 2022, planning cycles and product development for their European products and tours.

When: Wednesday 12th January 2022
Time: 10:30 GMT-5 / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET

Register here

Insight Hub


Check our latest statistics, opinion and research pieces on the Insight Hub.

STR Insight Blog Nov21: A short but insightful piece based on a survey of global international travellers in early November, which acts as a reminder that even before the emergence of the Omicron variant travellers remained nervous about international travel.

Tourism Economics Report for Air BnB: A report produced on behalf of Airbnb setting out its importance to the EU27 labour market, its increasing geographical dispersion away from cities towards more rural area and its resilience during the pandemic.

IATA October press release on air travel demand

UNWTO Economic Contribution of Tourism and Covid Impact: A report that takes a detailed look at how important tourism was to economies around the world pre-pandemic and explores the impact that COVID-19 has had on the sector over the past two years.

EC Regional Impacts of Covid: A hefty tome from DG Regio that describes the tourism ecosystem in Europe through a series of destination typologies, and examines the impact of COVID-19 on them. It takes a broader look at tourism trends (both those from pre-pandemic and those brought about by it) and considers policy initiatives that can promote sustainable tourism.

ETOA Year in Review 2021

Access the online version here

Member information with ETOA

If you have not done so already, please review your company information via this link. To see whom ETOA currently holds as the ‘main contact’ check your listing via this link (you will need to be logged in to see all the information).

Meanwhile, please continue to send any comments you may have about the website to: policy@etoa.org

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