WITH more than 30% of Americans having received their first covid-19 vaccination, many are looking to book their summer holidays but visits to Europe, where a third wave of infections has prompted new lockdowns, are off limits as borders remain shut.
Thanks to the successful vaccine rollout in the UK, there is an opportunity to open a transatlantic air bridge with the US, which would allow flights between the two countries, without the need to quarantine. Talks are reportedly ongoing.
Jennifer Tombaugh, president of US tour operator Tauck, said that with so much uncertainty in many European countries, American travellers would soon book other destinations. Iceland and the Galapagos have said they would welcome vaccinated tourists. And Greece has announced it would reopen its borders on 14 May.
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She said phones were ringing off the hook with travellers wanting to visit Europe but “we have to tell them ‘no, we don’t know’.” She also said countries need to make a decision now as operators and businesses need at least 60 days notice to put in plans – or Europe risks losing out on US visitors until 2022.
Speaking during a “Reopening Europe” webinar, Ms Tombaugh said “the challenge is that there is no plan” and warned that as the window to book gets smaller, “the summer in Europe will be lost”.
“This is about balancing health and economy. We need to find responsible travel ways to open the borders and we need a plan. We need to know when the borders might open, what’s going to be required to make that happen and how that’s all going to work,” she said.
“There’s a real risk right now that if a plan isn’t announced soon that the summer in Europe will be lost which will be devastating not only for Americans wanting to go but for the European economy that is dependent upon inbound traffic – and for the American economy that very much wants to seen Europeans back to our shores.”
In terms of tourism, the US is an important market for the UK bringing in huge visitor numbers. Pre-pandemic, in 2019 the most popular overseas destinations for Americans were the UK, followed by Italy and France. For the same year, the ONS, reported that the top three countries that visited the UK were the US, France and Germany.
For this year “we are looking at places where Americans can go,” Ms Tombaugh said.
“We are very excited about Greece and Iceland and there’s strong demand for those destinations because they have found a way to navigate the health and the economy. The Galapagos has just opened up. Every day a new country is coming up because they realise if they don’t have a plan soon that Americans will transfer to other destinations because they are eager to go.”
The US has one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns which aims to reach 50% of people with a first dose this month and 70% in June. Many Americans have also said they’d be happy to carry a vaccine passport to prove they’ve had the jab.