Tuesday, 14 Jul 2020

Ban on inbound travel from Europe baffles coronavirus

A stunned travel industry on Thursday accused President
Donald Trump of sowing heightened fear and confusion over the Covid-19 virus
with his ban on most European travel to the U.S., which officials said will
only further devastate an already crumbling global travel economy.

USTOA CEO Terry Dale said he was “surprised and discouraged”
by the administration’s decision.

“It adds more confusion and uncertainty to our already
beleaguered industry,” he said.

European officials said they were baffled at Trump’s logic,
which Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association, said “stigmatizes
an entire continent.”

“The coronavirus is a global crisis not limited to any
destination, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” said
Eduardo Santander, head of the European Travel Commission.  “Planes fly from A to B and B to A. The
European tourism sector disapproves this unilateral travel ban without any
consultation, which will equally affect travel and tourism businesses and
citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Ironically, Jenkins said, the biggest loser could be
America.

“America has basically said to its largest target (tourism)
market, ‘You’re not welcome,” he said.  “It’s
kind of a bad thing to do.”

As for the impact on Europe, Jenkins said, “If we’re being
realistic, in the short term, there is very little good news for European
tourism in any case. … Even before this announcement, bookings were drying up
and cancellations were coming in. So all this announcement does is further
impair confidence in a product which is already suffering.”

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said that “temporarily
shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already heavy impact
of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs
depend on travel.”

“We have and will continue to engage Congress and the
administration on policy steps that are necessary to ensure that travel
employers — 83% of which are small businesses — can keep the lights on for
their employees,” Dow said in a statement.

According to U.S. Travel Association economists, 850,000
international visitors flying from Europe (excluding the U.K.) entered the U.S.
in March 2019, accounting for about 29% of total overseas arrivals to the U.S.
These visitors spent approximately $3.4 billion in the U.S.

Trump, in a Wednesday address from the Oval Office, announced
the 30-day ban on inbound travel from the 26 nations in the Schengen Area of
Europe, which the White House said has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19
cases outside of mainland China. The most serious outbreak has been in Italy,
which has shut its borders.

Although noting that the virus started in China, Trump
blamed Europe for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak and
claimed  the clusters of infections
growing in the U.S. were “seeded” by European travelers.

While Trump in his address indicated all European travel
would be cut off, Homeland Security officials later clarified that the
restrictions would apply only to most foreign nationals who have been in the
Schengen  zone at any point for 14 days
prior to their scheduled arrival. The zone includes Austria, Belgium, Czech
Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland,
Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands,
Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The restrictions don’t apply to legal permanent U.S.
residents, immediate family of U.S. citizens or others “identified in the
proclamation” signed by Trump, according to the Associated Press.

The exclusion of the U.K. and Ireland was further baffling,
officials said.

“Countries such as Belgium and Austria have fewer cases and
deaths than the U.K.,” Ralph Hollister, a travel and tourism analyst at the
U.K.-based firm Global Data, said in a statement.  “A lack of reason for this allowance could
point to sheer pragmatism. The U.K. was the top inbound source market from
Europe for the U.S. in 2019, with 3.5 million arrivals. Global Data’s
pre-coronavirus projections show that visitation was set to increase at a
compound annual growth rate of 1.5% between 2019 and 2023. This may explain why
the U.K. is exempt.”

Other non-Schengen members excluded from the ban include
Croatia, San Marino, Monaco, Serbia and Montenegro.

Hollister said the ban is “set to further increase pain for
major players in the U.S.”

“Since mid-February, stocks have taken a significant
downturn for United, Delta and American airlines,” he said. “This has created a
knock-on impact for behemoth Boeing, a company which makes a valuable
contribution to the U.S. economy through employment. The aircraft manufacturer
has announced it has frozen hiring due to coronavirus market turmoil.”

The cruise industry has also been hard hit by the virus,
with several large ships being quarantined because of infected passengers and
crew members. 

Earlier this week, the State Department and the Centers for
Disease Control advised Americans against cruising, an advisory that the Trump administration walked back the next day, saying that cruising was fine for healthy people and that elderly persons, particularly those with underlying health conditions, should be more reticent.

On Wednesday, Viking said it was suspending river and ocean
cruise operations until May 1, a response to the coronavirus situation. On
Thursday, other cruise lines began to follow suit. Princess said it was
shutting down its global operations until May 10.  Virgin Voyages said it was postponing until
Aug. 7 the maiden voyage of its first cruise ship, the Scarlet Lady.  And Uniworld Boutique River Cruises said it
would suspend the start of its European river cruise season until April 23.

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