Editorial Note: This article has a completely inaccurate statement which we have indicated by a “strikeout”. We consider the “strikeout” as a more honest edit than just “removing” the inaccuracy by deleting it. We apologize for the inaccuracy.
I jumped on a call Monday morning, which involved travel advisors from all over the nation speaking to the execs in our agency. The #1 topic was: Why is the EU recommending against Americans vacationing in Europe?
The Council of the European Union has just removed the United States from the EU’s Safe Travel List. American regulations already don’t permit Europeans to vacation here.
The travel advisors on the call wondered if the EU recommendation would generate a new round of vacation and cruise cancellations. Asia and Oceania are already tightly closed to Americans, and Hawaii’s governor is pleading with tourists not to visit. The loss of Europe as a vacation destination will only leave Latin America and the Caribbean as the major international destinations in which Americans are still welcome.
With many Caribbean nations now imposing strict vaccination requirements, this leaves only Mexico as a viable destination for unvaxxed travelers. In the Bahamas, for instance, the private islands owned by American brands such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian are popular destinations for budget Caribbean cruisers on mass-market ships.
Now they are out-of-bounds for unvaxxed travelers. And good luck flying to Mexico or the Caribbean. Since these are international flights, the FAA has ordered that everyone eligible for vaccinations on these flights must be fully vaxxed.
The ban that the Council of the European Union has imposed on Americans is reviewed by the EU every two weeks, to see whether infections rose sharply in any nation. The upwards trend of Delta variant in the US also caused Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia to be removed from the EU Safe Travel List.
The bans are not mandatory. Each European country may choose whether to impose them. But here is where a diplomatic principle called reciprocity comes into play.
In early August, the US announced:
The United States has no plans to lift travel restrictions at this point, given the rise of the delta variant, according to the White House. The decision means the country’s current travel restrictions—which deny entry for people from the European Schengen area, United Kingdom, and other countries—will remain in place.
This announcement will probably cause some European nations to reimpose the bans against Americans traveling that they had removed only weeks before. “If our citizens’ vacation plans are ruined, so will yours,” the reasoning goes. Unless we permit vaxxed Europeans to visit here, at least some reciprocal bans are a foregone conclusion.
What Will Happen to the Cruise Industry?
If EU bans prevent even fully vaxxed travelers from cruising in Europe this winter, the American cruise industry could easily collapse. Practically all that will be left for this winter will be sailings to the Caribbean and Latin America.
The US Travel Association (USTA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have appealed to the EU member nations not to apply restrictions to vaccinated travelers. Implicit in their statements is their general acceptance of the EU curbs on unvaxxed travelers. While the USTA and IATA don’t offer to support efforts to end US restrictions on vaccinated Europeans, everyone probably recognizes these restrictions will have to end too.
Involving IATA in the discussions also provides an excellent way to incentivize mandatory vaccinations on domestic flights. Many international flights require domestic connections. For travelers to fly safely on international legs, the airlines must protect domestic flying as well.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” we say. Here we can avoid the possibility of the cruise industry going down in flames by implementing reciprocal regulations requiring that everyone who flies or cruises be fully vaccinated. We’re already heading in that direction. All that’s needed is for all of us to move simultaneously towards uniform safeguards. Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Canada, may join in too.
Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. He writes a weekly column, Point-to-Point, for Travel Research Online (TRO) that’s read by more than 80,000 travel advisors and industry leaders. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.