The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

A traveller in a pandemic

Josianne Cutajar MEP Sunday, 18 April 2021, 08:01 Last update: about 30 days ago

We have all heard and agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the worldwide tourism market, along with the European and local one. This dynamic industry is a significant contributor to Malta’s and Gozo’s GDP, all while providing several jobs which our families depend on.

Both the EU institutions and Member States must collectively work to help the industry survive and recover, ensuring it will once again emerge as the competitive, dynamic field we all know it to be. We need to ensure that Europe remains the world lead tourism destination. While each country must adapt to its own realities, the industry will need to network together to boost the recovery of the global tourism market.

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The Maltese Government is clearly playing its part, as clearly shown by its recent announcement of gradual easing of restrictive COVID measures, as well as a 20 million euro stimulus to kick-start the severely hit touristic sector.

As the national vaccination campaign also picks up, more of us are looking forward to travel again. The Commission has understood the urgency of creating an EU wide system for the mutual recognition of certificates for travel. Indeed, the proposed Digital Green Certificate will enhance mobility allowing travelers to provide a certificate for a successful vaccination or a negative test result.

To ensure we can travel again, the EU and Member States must not lose sight of other aspects such as the issue of lost connectivity. Many routes will not be economically feasible in the near future, some of them leading to isolated tourism destinations. For this reason, I have posed a parliamentary question to the European Commission on the topic. In addition, I am pushing for a continued relaxation of State Aid rules for islands beyond the pandemic.

Turning back to the role that all of us can play, when travelling during these times, we must take the ‘new normal’ on board with us, and be disciplined enough to adhere to whatever safety measures are in place. We must understand that travelling today comes with more responsibility. We must be more cautious about specific health guidelines as we travel, and keep track of the relevant authorities’ latest information and protocols. As travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines are removed, we must continue to respect recommended hygiene measures such as the use of facemasks, washing our hands and social distancing. This means responsibility towards us and others.

While the EU has published guidelines on safe travel, at national level the private sector has quickly adapted to established protocols in line with government measures.

The World Travel and Tourism Council has launched a Safe Travels Stamp for tourists to identify those safe destinations and businesses around the globe, which have gone the extra mile in ensuring the safety of their guests. The EU is also working on its own Hygiene certification seal.  

Smartly planning our own vacation will also be crucial. Travelers are now being advised to look into flexible presale bookings and the right insurance coverage when booking travel. Accepting to travel with flexibility, is important to battle the travel uncertainty which surrounds us during this time.

No country or business could have prepared for the pandemic. If I had to find a positive side to this story, however, we have an opportunity to build back better; an objective I will keep on working relentlessly towards. Furthermore, tourism is finally being given the importance it deserves at the EU level.  

To conclude, let me once more reiterate that we owe it to ourselves and to each other to act responsibly, thus, contributing to the new normal, whilst still exploring the world in a safe manner.

It will take a lot of responsibility and discipline to be a successful traveler in a pandemic.

Take the jab, do your research, and pack your masks! 

Josianne Cutajar is a Labour MEP
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