Credit: General Secretariat of the Council

The European Tourism Manifesto alliance of more than 60 travel and tourism organisations (including Air for Europe, of which Cargolux is a member), has publicly welcomed the adoption of the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Less than three months after the publication of the European Commission's proposal, the European Parliament and the Council have approved the regulation on EU Digital COVID Certificates. As a common European Union (EU) instrument, the certificate will provide proof that an individual has been either vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus or received a negative test result. The certificate will be in use by 1 July 2021 and will be available in digital and paper format, contain a QR code and be issued free of charge.

The European Tourism Manifesto alliance has recognised this move as both positive and necessary to restore freedom of movement, agreeing that this tool will facilitate cross-border travel, as well as allowing Europeans to reconnect with families and friends and to do business in person after months of lockdowns and restrictions.

Consequently, the alliance has urged EU Member States to ensure swift implementation of the certificate before July to support the restart of the sector in time for summer and to restore freedom of movement within the EU and Schengen Area. The travel and tourism stakeholders stressed that any delay would undermine the chances of a successful recovery, since sectoral resilience is at its limit.

The alliance maintained that the reopening of the sector is justified by the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which shows that the COVID-19 third wave is receding and the vaccination rollout is accelerating throughout Europe: 46% of adults in the EU had received their first dose as of 25 May 2021.

The European Tourism Manifesto alliance also welcomed the EU institutions’ agreement to make €100 million available from the Emergency Support Instrument, allowing Member States to purchase COVID-19 tests. These should be made affordable and accessible to all travellers, maintained the alliance, thereby minimising the risk of economic discrimination.

In its latest communication on the industrial strategy, the European Commission recognised that travel and tourism was the sector “hardest hit” and that recovery would also be slow for transport. While the European Tourism Manifesto alliance expressed confidence that the EU Digital COVID Certificate would support the reopening, it maintained that urgent agreement and coordination among Member States was still required on the following, in order to increase the chance of success:

- common time limits for COVID-19 testing requirements (such as less than 24 hours prior for an antigen test, less than 72 hours for a PCR test); 

- a harmonised minimum age for children at which a COVID-19 test is required, helping families to plan their trips;

- no additional requirements on transit passengers in transportation hubs;

- swift adoption of the European Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) which should be linked to the EU Digital COVID Certificate to improve efficiency when boarding passengers and avoiding long queues at transport hubs.

According to the alliance, these measures would help restore confidence in cross-border travel and guarantee a smooth experience for travellers exercising their freedom of movement.

The stakeholders concluded: “The agreement reached at EU level on Digital COVID Certificate is a step towards the reintroduction of Schengen and the freedom of movement throughout the EU. Europeans are looking forward to crossborder travel this summer, whether for visiting families and friends, leisure or business. We call on Member States to urgently implement the Certificate and refrain from adding travel requirements for Certificate holders if the epidemiological situation continues improving”.