Policy Update, February 2021

European Policy

External Borders

ETOA is pushing for a roadmap to open Europe’s external borders. On Thursday 11th February at 11:30 EST / 16:30 GMT / 17:30 CET we will host a short discussion with key players from the North American market who need answers about a possible summer start to avert more re-bookings and cancellations. A press release was issued on 9th February. To join the event, click here.

No-one questions the need to take a precautionary approach, especially as authorities focus on managing the emergence of new variants of Covid-19. But what is increasingly questioned is the long-term focus on border controls as an effective mechanism given the relative risk presented by cross-border travel. A proportionate regime of controls which permits a general return to cross-border movement will be necessary for long-term public health management. We have joined forces with other organisations including Airlines for Europe (A4E) to develop a common industry position on testing, vaccination and other pre-conditions for relaxing restrictions whilst maintaining sufficient precautions. A4E’s early February position paper is available here.

While the capacity of the EU to compel convergence on an agreed set of protocols is limited, it still seems likely that internal freedom of movement will have to be restored before external borders will be a priority. Policy proposals by EU member states to the OECD may become instrumental in Europe finally adopting a common strategy: we are following developments closely. Recent coverage of ETOA’s work on this issue here.

Sustainable Recovery – EU financial support

The Tourism Manifesto has published proposals to assist Member States in ensuring tourism features in their recovery plans. For more information, click here.  We will be running a Spain-focused webinar (in Spanish) on 23rd February at 10:00 CET that will explore how the private sector can work with DMOs to develop their own recovery strategies for tourism. To register your interest, please email policy@etoa.org 

VAT in Germany – EU competitiveness

[This paragraph was corrected on 12th February: the change is in bold. Apologies for any confusion!]

Germany has changed the VAT treatment on its tourism services that are bought by non-EU operators. This could amount to a 19% surcharge on German product, and impose much additional administration. It will affect B2C clients who buy services direct from suppliers as well as product bought from a wholesaler, including B2B operators in Germany with non-EU clients. ETOA learned that neither inbound nor domestic trade associations in Germany were informed, still less consulted. The German National Tourism Office has issued a statement which ends: “So far, little is known as to the background of the decision by the [Ministry of Finance] – not even whether travel services from providers from third state countries must now be segmented into individual categories for taxation. At this moment in time the German National Tourist Board cannot comment any further – especially in view of the many questions still open.” 

There has been no change in the law but, to date, no EU country has sought to treat non-EU buyers like this; they have been content to retain the input VAT paid on individual services which will form part of a package (as they do when they are bought by EU operators trading within the Tour Operators Margin Scheme). If other EU countries take the same approach, the bloc’s overall competitiveness in terms of cost and complexity will be badly compromised. Given the relative value of tourism exports and long-haul visitor spend, this is not a direction Europe should take. As a first step, ETOA and its partners will argue for a suspension of the new treatment in Germany until a thorough impact assessment is published: it is hard to see how one could have been completed without the cooperation or knowledge of the inbound industry.

It is an extraordinary position for the EU’s largest market to have put itself: it will jeopardise its inbound industry and add to the financial strain on companies that are trying to sell its product. For further information and a recording of 9th February webinar on topic, please click here. We will provide updates on our Tax and tourism page.

Brexit – guiding in Europe

For an overview of the impact on travel, please see our Brexit Post-Transition page. Regarding guiding, we have been in touch with various operators as to their options. Any individual’s rights to provide guiding services are subject to prevailing immigration and professional regulation frameworks. Post-Brexit, guides will need to fit within one of the categories described in the grid on the guiding regulation page. Note especially the overall duration of stay: it will be noticed if any individual has exceeded 90 days in 180. If they have done so, they will need to present justification on re-entry.

Some guides are employees, and the UK offers various short-term employment options which may be appropriate for those formerly contracted on a freelance basis. Depending on the years of experience, operators should review requirements of ‘short term business visitor’ (STBV) and ‘contractual service supplier’ (CSS) as either (or both) may suit.

We remain in the dark as to the precise nature of any application processes or evidence required to prove status ahead of an individual providing services in the EU. When operations resume, operators may need to prepare documentation attesting to individual’s length of service, if applicable, their employment status, and the dates within which they will be performing those services. We will monitor developments.

Guides from third countries

Brexit does not formally affect the status of individuals who are neither EU nor UK citizens who provide services in the EU. But, it is possible that post-Brexit arrangements will draw more attention to them as the overall proportion professionals wishing to provide temporary services on tour in the EU that is made up of non-EU citizens may increase. This will come at a time when groups volume may be relatively modest, and EU professionals will be equally interested in work. We will issue a further briefing when the TGID system opens.

ETOA Tour guide ID Card (TGID)

TGID is evidence that the holder has been contracted to provide services by an operator liable for their services. While it has no formal status, it has proven to provide ready reassurance for at least some inquisitive officials. It does not constitute proof of qualification or legal rights. We will advise when the system is open for 2021.

Tourist Taxes

Our Member-only tourist tax rate pages are currently being reviewed and updated. The following countries’ data has been completed; more to follow later in February: Croatia  Czech Republic  Netherlands

Insight Hub

Much new material has recently been added to our Insight Hub, some of which is only accessible to members.  Recent additions include the following:

IATA press room IATA regularly release statements, summaries and speeches into the public domain: we provide links to particularly relevant articles.

ETC Traveller sentiment wave 4 (intra-European and domestic travel) which looks at the extent to which Europeans are planning intra-European and domestic travel, their concerns and what factors are likely to influence behaviour.

Tourism Ireland Covid-19 research late 2020 data from key source markets for Ireland (GB, USA, Germany and France) showing continued unease with taking European holidays but also a strong underlying appetite for travel.

Visit Britain inbound and domestic research webinar  a 90-minute webinar on newly released findings from a study of international travellers undertaken in December 2020 exploring their travel intentions, ‘activators’ and preferences.

Travel Weekly Insight Annual Report A detailed look at the UK travel market drawing heavily on recent consumer research that suggests a shift towards domestic travel and away from overseas holidays, but perhaps not to the extent some have suggested.

ETC Long Haul travel sentiment  findings from an online survey exploring the intentions of those in Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and USA to take a long-haul trip in the first four months of 2021 and the concerns that potential travellers are expressing.

UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2020 a comprehensive round-up of international tourism data.

BIM survey on Britain and Ireland Recovery Prospects A 2-page summary of the survey ETOA carried out with leading tour operators at our Britain and Ireland Marketplace in January 2021 on the speed with which they anticipate a recovery in demand.

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 website to: policy@etoa.org

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