Policy Update

January 2021

Happy new year!


While the current situation remains bleak, the prospects for recovery are strong once vaccination programmes roll out and travel restrictions become less severe. The UNWTO global tourism crisis committee is meeting next week with ministers from governments in a bid to co-ordinate recovery in areas such as acceptance of vaccine certificates. In the meantime, rapid testing is important to restart recovery in Spring/Summer 2021, as not all countries are on the same vaccine rollout programme, and not all those who wish to travel may have the opportunity to be vaccinated prior to departure. We know from many members that demand is very high. Our priority is to support our members as best we can through the final months as they prepare for a return to business.

This update is largely focused on the practical consequences of Brexit as regards tours operations. We recommend you visit our website for updates on a range of workshops, webinars and fresh material on our Insight Hub, including ETC Q3 Trends and Prospects ReportUNWTO Tourism Barometer UpdateExpedia Traveller Sentiment.





Travel Restrictions  The challenge in Europe and its source markets continues to be the need for more coordinated and evidence-based travel restrictions. Fragmentation in approach is harming prospects of recovery. For current information on travel restrictions, please visit our COVID-19 resources page.

Portugal assumed the Presidency of the European Union this month, to be followed by Slovenia for the second half of the year. These are two Member States in which tourism is taken seriously at a senior political level, who routinely seek dialogue with industry. We have good relations with tourism policy stakeholders in both countries. Together with our partners in the Tourism Manifesto we will work to ensure that the industry is central to inter-governmental priorities for recovery during 2021.


The UK left the European Union on terms set out in a 1,246-page ‘Trade and Cooperation Agreement’. Topics negotiated in the Agreement included temporary mobility, air and road transport and reciprocal healthcare arrangements. The agreement is provisional (pending ratification). It is not law and its implementation will entail various processes and arrangements not yet in place. Further detail and clarification will be required. Here, we focus on rights and restrictions which will have direct operational impact to assist in planning. The most complex and problematic issues relate to guiding services.

Our Brexit post-transition page has been updated to reflect the Agreement.  The Guiding Regulation page has been updated with additional material: see Guiding below.

Coach transport 

Market Access: Coach tours which both start and end in the coach operator’s home country will be able to continue between the EU and UK due to the UK joining the Interbus Agreement. In addition, tours which either start (subject to conditions) or end outside the coach operators home country can also continue. Further information can be found in Article 6 of the Interbus Agreement. Please note the Interbus Agreement considers the EU as one country. Thus, for EU operators, the start or end of the tour can be in another EU state.

Furthermore, The Trade and Cooperation Agreement allows UK coach operators to travel through the EU to non-Interbus countries such as Norway and Switzerland.

However, cabotage services (pick up and set down of passengers) except on the island of Ireland is no longer allowed for UK coach operators elsewhere in the EU, and for EU coach operators in Great Britain.

Coach Drivers: UK Government guidance states that UK national coach drivers will not require a work permit but are subject to visitor rules in Schengen area (e.g. limited to 90 days in 180 day period). Our understanding is that EU coach drivers in the UK will also not require a work permit for stays of up to 6 months in line with UK Government visitor rules. For British and Irish citizens travelling between Ireland and the UK, there is no time limit due to the Common Travel Area.

In addition, the UK has retained EU driving and rest time rules but UK services will be subject to AETR rules in non-EU countries such as Switzerland. These are largely the same but differences are noted here in section 1.12.


Erasmus+: The UK is no longer participating in the exchange programme. UK Government will introduce a new programme called Turing starting in September 2021. The UK will continue to participate fully in the current (2014-2020) Erasmus+ and ESC programmes for the full duration of the project. Further information can be found here.


Reciprocal healthcare arrangements have been agreed for visitors between the EU and the UK. UK issued EHIC cards remain valid until expiry and will then be replaced by a new GHIC. EU issued EHIC cards remain valid in the UK. For travel between UK and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, please see the healthcare section on our Brexit post transition page.


Freedom of movement of EU citizens to visit and provide services in the UK, and of UK citizens to do likewise in the EU, has ended (excepting within the pre-existing Common Travel Area of Ireland and the UK). For work, freedom of movement has been replaced by a framework agreement on Services and Investment; these include guiding services.

While the agreement’s introductory language describes a mutual intention to avoid unnecessary barriers, the detail is otherwise. In our initial analysis, we have focused on rights and restrictions related to UK citizens based in the UK because an EU citizen’s right to provide guiding services in the UK are in practice unchanged providing the visit lasts no more than 6 months. The UK reserves the right to impose restrictions on freelancers providing such services but has not done so. The challenges for UK citizens wishing to work in the EU are significant.

For more information, click here.

Tour Guide ID (TGID) card 

ETOA’s systems updates will complete in time for TGID cards to be produced from mid-February. We will update accompanying materials prior to the scheme’s relaunch to reflect current understanding of the position following Brexit.

For all operators who wish to participate in the Tour Guide ID card scheme, via bulk orders or by directing contracted individuals to apply please email tourguide@etoa.org to provide us with the following information:

  • The name and email address of the contact person at your company whom we should liaise with about Tour Guide ID cards, whether or not your company makes bulk orders. We cannot issue cards to applicants citing your company as a ‘reference’ without this information, and you may miss out on relevant information as and when regulation affecting guiding changes.
  • Whether you anticipate making bulk orders in 2021.
Tourist Tax review
The tourist tax rates pages will start to be reviewed next week. Changes will be highlighted at the top of each country page.


Company 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 website content, public and member-only, to: policy@etoa.org

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