The European Union announced June 18 that it’s ready to have its member states lift the ban on nonessential travel for visitors from the United States. While that announcement is non-binding, allowing individual countries to decide whether they’ll let Americans in, it’s a welcome indicator that the U.S. has taken strides in the eyes of the world in the fight against COVID-19. All of which is to say that vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans are now able to travel to Europe.
As the New York Times observed, “The opening is also expected to provide relief for southern European countries that are highly dependent on tourism, including Italy and Portugal. Those countries pressed the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, to act so that the entire summer tourism season would not be hurt by the absence of Americans, who are considered relatively big spenders.”
It’s not yet reciprocal, though: The ban on Europeans coming to the U.S. for nonessential travel, imposed by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020, was renewed by President Joe Biden in January 2021, meaning that Americans are able to travel to Europe but Europeans are not necessarily allowed to travel to the U.S.
“Some European nations, including Greece and France, already allow Americans to enter their borders, albeit with testing and/or vaccination requirements in place,” Conde Nast Traveler wrote in its coverage of the announcement. As it clarified, the announcement “is a significant milestone in the broader reopening of travel between the U.S. and Europe. For the first time in over a year, travelers from the U.S. may be permitted to more freely travel around the bloc, although subject to individual country entry requirements.”
The criteria by which a country within the E.U. is deemed safe for travel are evaluated every two weeks, depending on how many new COVID cases per 100,000 people were recorded in the previous 14 days, along with other testing standards.
Bloomberg reported that other countries that are allowing non-essential travel include Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Taiwan.
Martin Ferguson, vice president of public affairs at corporate travel agency American Express Global Business Travel, lauded the announcement as “great news for the E.U. economies and all transatlantic travel supply chain participants. We anticipate a strong return of bookings on these routes.”
Yet there are still concerns. “More open travel last summer between European countries was blamed for deadly surges in cases,” the Times observed, and even though more than half of European Union residents have received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine, the delta variant is causing concerns about a repeat of last summer’s travel-released spread.