Policy Update, May 2021

Political support for Tourism

At a recent meeting of the G20, organised by the Italian Presidency, the final communiqué emphasised the importance of tourism in socio-economic recovery. While summitry may seem distant from day-to-day business in this case it is significant. There is now a consensus among the G20, built on OECD guidelines and input from the UNWTO, that we cannot treat tourism in isolation: it is of primary importance, integrated across the economy, and requires strategic support. While this has long been obvious to industry and more thoughtful local politicians and destination managers, high-level political recognition matters, and justifies a joined-up policy response across government.

EU Funding

The EU has just published its latest guide to funding available for tourism. This allows search among funding opportunities in the EU’s budget to 2027, and Next Generation EU funding. It also provides more information about applicable programmes and past projects. Note that this does not address the urgent need for financial support for businesses that would be viable but for operating restrictions and travel bans. While this is administered at national level it is subject to continued EU debate in relation to state aid rules and the level of funding required.

European Policy

Health Credentials and Borders

Mixed signals continue to frustrate operators planning to re-open departures to and within Europe. ETOA joined industry partners in welcoming progress in a statement issued this week on the EU digital green certificate, but warned that the infrastructure must support fast verification, so border formalities do not cause crowding and delays. Pending agreement on an EU-wide scheme, tensions remain. The idea that visitors from third countries might be able to visit EU countries before some EU citizens can is a hard message to sell politically.

The suggestion that health credentials may be necessary for international travel provokes objections which may not stand up to much scrutiny, but are nonetheless sincerely held and influential. Meanwhile, EU member states are at liberty to devise and administer their own health credentials, so border officials will have to authenticate a diverse range of new documents and verify that the data they hold meets destination requirements.

The UK Government’s recently published traffic-light lists (for England, as health is a devolved competence within the UK) dismayed many with its over-cautious approach: it is not obvious why US-originating visitors who can present proof of a negative pre-departure test and vaccination are considered a significant risk. The UK’s current position is that all countries are ‘amber’ (i.e. visitors subject to three tests and 10-day self-isolation) until there is compelling evidence otherwise.

The UK Government’s traffic light system and testing protocol will be reviewed on 28 June, but in the interim country classification for green (avoiding self-isolation on arrival) will next be reviewed in the first week of June. The Scottish Government has announced its own traffic-light system this week. This is currently aligned with UK Government arrangements for England, but country classification could differ during the summer. Further information can be found in the UK section of our Coronavirus resources page.


As previously reported, ETOA has been working with Commission consultants on options for digital visas, and a streamlined digitalised process which will minimise the need for applicants to present in person. If you wish to add your perspectives, please find the EC consultation via 11th March update on our Visas and Borders page.


Germany continues to be a cause for concern as, apparently, it still intends to require non-EU buyers to register for VAT (and pay VAT on the margin). This change, previously planned for 1.1.21, was suspended following strong representations. The hope was that Germany would wait until an EU-wide solution was devised. At present, however, it seems Germany still intends to impose the change from 1.1.22.

The risk to the German inbound industry is serious, and we will be developing our position in coming weeks: central to that will be data from operators. If you would like to ensure your business is consulted please contact us at policy@etoa.org For more information on our current understanding, see our TOMS page.

In Memoriam – Nick Tarsh

It is with sadness that we inform members of the death of Nick Tarsh earlier this week. A co-founder of ETOA and its first Chairman, he saw the need for a unified European voice for global operators and made it happen. He was a kind, charismatic man, and a far-sighted leader in the travel industry: we remain in his debt. An obituary will be published on our website in due course.

Information on border restrictions 

We continue to recommend the following:

  • Re-Open EU for EU27 and EFTA countries (recently updated with a travel planner taking into account origin market: more information about documentary requirement for children and transit passengers pending).
  • UNWTO/IATA Destination Tracker for countries worldwide
  • Sherpa for countries worldwide (includes a colour coded map to reflect border controls from a specific origin market)

These resources are listed on our Coronavirus resources page, alongside national government webpages. Please continue to contact us with any questions at policy@etoa.org


The UK Government has published new country specific guidance pages for UK nationals working in the EU which has been added to our Brexit post-transition page. Guidance on working in EFTA countries is to follow. For information on Iceland, please see below.

We will be hosting a confidential member-only meeting for operators to discuss the impact of Brexit on guiding services in the EU/EEA and UK. To express interest in attending the meeting, please contact us at policy@etoa.org.

Destinations and Attractions

While Iceland may be one of the first countries to accept non-EU visitors, foreign tour guides may not be as welcome. We learned this week of an apparent intention to use existing legislation affecting foreign nationals’ right to work in Iceland, especially those who are not citizens of EU/EEA/EFTA. While the legislation was last amended in 2018, the enforcement intention in respect of third country tour guides providing temporary services seems new.

Requirements for entry include a work permit for which the self-employed may be ineligible. Consequences for contravening the law may be severe. Given the significance of tour guides to operators’ ability to deliver the reassurance they wish at a time when consumer confidence is fragile this is a frustrating and counter-productive development. If any members have further information, please contact us. We are urgently seeking clarification and will publish updates here.

How many people are in a ‘small’ group for whom access to an attraction is permitted? These and other questions continue to vex operators trying to determine what is possible when tours are back on the road. Some attractions are subject to local regulation, others national: the mechanics for booking, ticketing and visiting while assuring client and staff safety are challenging; accurate information is hard to find without case-by-case inquiry. If you are aware of reliable resources we should share, please contact us at policy@etoa.org  

Upcoming Events

ETOA is partnering with UIC / TopRail on an event focused on rail tourism in Europe, including product development and the operational challenges operators face. The public part of the event may be followed from 12:00 CEST on 18th May. More information here.

Insight Hub

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

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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