ETOA Policy Update | May 2022

First, the good news. ETOA’s worldwide buyer members report strong demand for European holidays. Much of this is new business. Travel restrictions continue to fall away. Industry hopes that the continued requirement to test prior to return to the USA will soon end. A vaccinated traveller presents very low risk, and those testing positive generally have very mild symptoms. More progress is needed to harmonise digital certificates, ensuring sectoral resilience should the need for health controls return. See COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements below.

Recovery was never going to be trouble-free, and industry is proving its mettle in responding with imagination and agility in tough operating conditions. A return to large-scale visitor flows has surfaced widespread capacity constraints. Talent loss through the pandemic continues to affect the sector, from hospitality to attractions and road transport. Inflation affects all parts of the supply chain. The humanitarian obligation to provide safe accommodation to displaced people affects capacity and cost.

Rebuilding Europe’s visitor economy will require a coordinated policy response to support a strong recovery. ETOA and its partners are here to ensure that related debate and decisions are informed by accurate private sector insight at all levels of government.

This edition of ETOA’s Policy news includes updates on:

  • Sustainability
  • Partnerships
  • Group tourism
  • Tax and tourism
  • Borders and visas
  • Insight Hub

Sustainability

ETOA’s twin priorities for sustainability are climate action and product diversification.

Climate Action

On 3rd May ETOA was joined by a panel of experts to discuss climate action plans and implementation. For more information and event recording, please click below. If you are considering climate action and how best to develop a plan that suits your organisation, we recommend the resources available at Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency and The Glasgow Declaration.

On 1st June from 10:30 – 12:00 CEST, the UNWTO’s One Planet Network is running a free webinar on reduction and reuse of plastics in tourism. Registration for online participation is still open. The programme will include insights from behavioural change experts and tourism practitioners from following: London School of Economics, WRAP, Booking.com, Jaya House, municipalities of Stockholm and Gothenburg, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Governments of Sweden and France, Chalmers Industriteknik, UNWTO and UNEP.

For more on ETOA’s climate action and partners, visit our Climate page.

Product diversification

Spreading the benefit of the visitor economy seasonally and geographically remain top priorities for destinations. Trade events provide practical opportunity, and technology helps with capacity management and visitor flows, but creative public-private sector dialogue is essential as well.

ETOA will be hosting an informal discussion with Benelux NTO and DMO members and other partners next month to explore regional opportunities for business development. If you would like to discuss how ETOA can support your destination’s strategy, including product diversification and cross-border collaboration, please contact Sofie Jensen.

Partnerships

ETOA works with a wide variety of partners in pursuit of policy objectives as well as business development for its members. Focusing on destinations, we work with CityDNA to deliver our forthcoming City Fair which is a mid-season opportunity for buyers and suppliers to connect, and also to look ahead to future product needs and destination plans.

On 1st June, we will join a NECSTouR’s conference in Denmark that will focus on building tourism destinations’ resilience. A common theme will be how private and public sectors should best collaborate to maximise mutual interest for communities, business and visitors.

Both ETOA and NECSTouR are members of the Tourism Manifesto which brings together 70 public and private sector tourism organisations, and support the European Travel Commission (ETC) in coordinating its work programme.

ETOA is also a member of a group of large trade associations, NET which provides an efficient forum for information sharing and building consensus on key policy priorities. Some of its members took the opportunity to meet informally last week in Brussels after two years of on-screen discussion.

Group tourism

Group tourism is evolving. While group size is often reduced due to social distancing constraints, more operators are now offering small-group product. It is also facing significant operation challenges, as indicated above. To ensure ETOA’s local advocacy work is well-targeted, we maintain a dynamic relationship with buyers working with a full range of group products and markets, as well as FIT business.

On 7th June ETOA will hold its quarterly member-only working group meeting for group tourism. If you would like to know more and register, please click below.

Tax and tourism

How tourism and its distribution channels are taxed are highly topical. The Commission is consulting on a replacement for the current tour operators margin scheme. This takes place in the knowledge the EU’s exports are critical to economic recovery, but as previously reported, tourism is not ‘disaggregated’ in the standard EU report showing value of exports on jobs. ETOA will continue to contribute assessment of market impact of various VAT options, and report on current state of play in the summer.

Our most recent tax webinar on 16th May discussed tax issues arising from the way tourism services are distributed online (agency, net rate models, B2B) and the regulator’s perception of them.

Local taxes

ETOA continues to maintain a database of local taxes (and national, where applicable) typically imposed on overnight visitors. We are also monitoring the situation in Venice, where a much-delayed day-visitor tax is now due to be introduced on 16 January 2023. For more information, follow this link (members only).

Borders and Visas

COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements

Countries across Europe are continuing to relax restrictions and remove the requirement for Covid certification for border entry and within destination. Completing passenger locator forms and other forms of self-declaration, particularly cumbersome for multi-country tours, are also being removed. Further information can be found on our Travel requirements page including the latest version of our travel requirements database for each country within the EU/EFTA/UK.

Within the EU, 11 countries currently have restrictions and requirements for border entry depending on the person travelling – Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal (excluding Madeira), Spain. All member countries of EFTA and the UK have removed restrictions and requirements.

With our partners in the Tourism Manifesto, the latest position paper published on 17th May covers the current EU trilogue discussion on extending the validity of the EU DCC regulation and calling for the revision of the European Council’s recommendations to member states on travel restrictions within and to the EU.

Travel requirements

Click here for latest updates

EU Entry/Exit System and ETIAS

Later this year, the European Commission is scheduled to implement the Entry/Exit System (EES) affecting non-EU nationals visiting all EU and EFTA member states (except Ireland). Operational start date is currently end of September 2022, but we understand this may be further postponed (potentially to November 2022) to allow countries additional time to prepare.

The EES is an automated IT system for registering both short-stay visa-requiring and visa-exempt non-EU nationals at borders. There is no cost for non-EU nationals. It will replace manual stamping in a passport and enable use of e-gates. Discussion continues about how this will be introduced at certain ports with limited capacity, and where passengers may need to leave their vehicle when biometric data is required.

Following the introduction of the EES, the introduction of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is expected to be rolled out from May 2023. Visa-exempt non-EU nationals will require a pre-clearance permit to enter the Schengen Area, plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. Ireland will be the only EU member state to not implement ETIAS. The permit will be valid for 3 years at a cost of €7 for adults between the ages of 18-70 and allow multiple visits within the 3 years. The system to apply for a permit has yet to be launched. Further information can be found on our Visas and Borders page.

UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

Earlier this month, the Nationality and Borders Act was passed, establishing the means for UK Government to introduce an ETA requirement for visa exempt non-British/non-Irish citizens to enter the UK. The UK Minister for Immigration and Future Borders spoke to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee last month on UK Government’s plans for ETA (recording and transcript of the session can be found here). Further information is expected to be announced later this year.

From remarks made in the committee session, an ETA is expected to be valid for at least a year and allow multiple visits during the period of validity. The cost of an ETA is likely to be comparable to other authorisation schemes e.g. EU ETIAS. The scheme is likely to be rolled out in stages with the first cohort anticipated to be countries which currently require an Electronic Visa Waiver to enter the UK (i.e. Middle East countries) and other countries which will be moved to visa waiver status because of ETA. Therefore, our understanding is that it is likely citizens of EU, US and other current visa waiver countries will not require an ETA before the end of 2024.

Northern Ireland: UK Government currently plan for visa exempt non-British/non-Irish citizens arriving in Northern Ireland from Ireland to require an ETA, even though there will not be any land border immigration controls. Discussions continue with the Irish Government as to an exemption for non-British/non-Irish citizens resident in Ireland to visit Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Tourism bodies in Ireland and Northern Ireland are lobbying for all visa-exempt visitors arriving in Northern Ireland from Ireland to be exempt from an ETA requirement, on the same basis that UK Government do not require a passport for EU citizens when arriving in Northern Ireland from Ireland (an ID card still suffices). Please let us know the potential impact that an ETA requirement would have on island of Ireland tours, particularly potential loss of tourism spend in Northern Ireland, to help support current lobbying efforts.

EU ID cards to enter the UK

Lobbying UK Government also continues to permit EU citizens under the age of 18 to be able to use an EU ID card to enter the UK, and establish an equivalent of the EU List of Travellers Scheme for school groups. Security of new EU ID cards is set to improve following European Commission regulation in August 2021.

Members have reported the detrimental effect this policy has had to date. Please let us know the impact this continues to have, particularly loss of tourism spend and to which destinations within the UK.

Insight Hub

Since April we have uploaded ten new pieces to our Insight hub, including the following:

WTTC Destination 2030
A substantial report bringing together a host of indicators across multiple pillars to examine the readiness of 63 destinations for sustainable travel and tourism growth between now and 2030.

Amadeus group travel report
Five trends that are set to shape the group travel and events sector in 2022 are described in a detailed report focussing mainly on the US market group travel market.

UNWTO Barometer March 22
The situation is ably summed up by this edition of the UNWTO Tourism Barometer with the line “tourism enjoys a strong start to 2022 while facing new uncertainties”.