BRUSSELS — In June, the European Union urged its member states to reopen their borders to travelers from the United States, hoping to boost the continent’s ailing tourism industry in the crucial summer season.
It worked. American tourists flocked to the beaches of Spain and Greece, the countryside of Italy and the streets of Amsterdam and Paris.
But on Monday, the European Union proposed new travel restrictions on unvaccinated visitors from the United States, in response to the alarming rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the Atlantic.
By removing the United States from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel without requirements such as quarantine and testing, the European Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the bloc’s 27 countries, has indicated that possible restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus could remain in place for months. The new measures can deal a new blow to the ailing tourism sector in Europe.
Other countries removed from the “safe list” include Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia, most of which have reported a spate of cases in the past 14 days, according to a NewsMadura tracker.
The proposed restrictions are not mandatory and it remains up to each member state of the European Union to follow the guidelines. So it was not immediately clear which countries, if any, would reintroduce restrictions or when they would start. Some countries have taken stricter measures than others, even for visitors from a safe-listed country, but once visitors enter an EU country, they can move freely around the bloc.
If enforced, the new restrictions would only apply to unvaccinated travelers. The European Council already recommends that all visitors who have been vaccinated with an EU-approved vaccine be allowed to travel. That includes the three vaccines available in the United States and manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna, as well as AstraZeneca.
Under current guidelines, unvaccinated travelers from countries on the European Council’s safe list can visit EU countries without going into quarantine by showing a negative test. But a minority of countries have also maintained self-isolation requirements, in some cases including for vaccinated visitors.
Meanwhile, the United States has remained closed to Europeans, who have expressed frustration at the lack of reciprocity.
With more than 52 percent of Americans fully vaccinated, most were able to travel to Europe this summer without hurdles and will continue to do so. Still, the decision to take the United States off the safe list could still cause confusion among American tourists, said Marie Audren, the director of HOTREC, a lobby group representing the hospitality industry in Europe.
“Every customer in a hotel, restaurant, bar or cafe has been valuable to the tourism industry this summer,” said Ms Audren. “And in recent years, American tourists have become increasingly important to European countries.”
In France, Greece and Spain, American visitors make up the largest contingent of tourists from non-European countries, according to data from tourism ministries. In other countries, such as Portugal, total spending by Americans is among the highest of all nationalities.
Still, the number of US arrivals in Europe fell by more than 80 percent last year compared to 2019, according to the European Travel Commission, a Brussels-based group that represents national tourism organizations on the continent. While figures for this summer are not yet available, Ms Audren said it would take years to return to prepandemic levels.
Luís Araújo, the chairman of the European Travel Commission, said: “Further unwarranted regulatory changes will undoubtedly negatively impact the tourism sector, which is slowly recovering from the worst crisis.”
In Europe, the number of coronavirus cases has remained stable this month. But the United States recorded more than 100,000 daily Covid hospitalizations in the past week, a first since the winter. EU officials are wary that an influx of unvaccinated US visitors could drive infections in Europe.
One of the European Council’s criteria for lifting restrictions is that a country should have fewer than 75 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days. The United States has a reported infection rate well above that threshold for weeks, according to data from the European Center for Disease Control, and it has been classified by the agency as a red zone — the second-highest-risk classification.
A European official, aware of confidential discussions leading up to the announcement, who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to discuss the update of the list, said it was prepared on the basis of the most recent scientific data available. were available, and that the infection rates in the United States spoke for themselves.