Health

Saving summer: EU proposes three-stage plan to boost tourism amid Covid-19

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The EU on Wednesday set out plans for a phased restart of travel this summer, hoping to save millions of tourism jobs threatened by the coronavirus pandemic across Europe, the world's top holiday destination.

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Travel restrictions to combat the virus have already had a devastating impact on the sector, with airlines around the continent forced to shed tens of thousands of jobs.

Tourism is vital to the EU as a whole, accounting for 10 percent of GDP and 12 percent of jobs.

It is especially important to southern countries already struggling with debt and the impact of COVID-19 – notably Greece, Italy and Spain.

"Today's guidance can be the chance of a better season for the many Europeans whose livelihood depends on tourism and, of course, for those who would like to travel this summer," the EU commission's executive vice president Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

In a stark sign of the crisis facing the industry, the world's biggest tourism group TUI said Wednesday it planned to slash 8,000 jobs as it reported a net loss of over 750 million euros for the first three months of the year.

Phased approach

While decisions about reopening borders fall to national governments, Brussels is urging the 27 EU states to take a coordinated approach to lifting restrictions – after a haphazard start to the crisis in which capitals closed frontiers with little or no consultation.

The EU is proposing a three-stage approach, starting with the current situation in which most non-essential travel across borders is banned.

In the next phase, the EU wants border restrictions lifted between countries and regions at a similar stage of the pandemic, and where the health situation is improving.

In the final phase, all coronavirus-related border controls would be lifted and travel permitted throughout Europe once again.

Brussels is urging governments to consider economic and social factors as well as health as they weigh up reopening their borders.

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