Europeans Question Return of American Tourists
On March 31, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced the start of a third national lockdown in a bid to control the spread of a new deadly wave of the coronavirus. Domestic travel between regions is forbidden and restaurants, bars and cafes remain closed.Germany has been in various forms of lockdown since November, with no signs of when restrictions might be lifted. And Spain, in recent months, has made a concerted effort to restrict Spaniards to their home regions, with police roadblocks near provincial borders on holiday weekends to keep people from traveling and possibly spreading the coronavirus.It is against this backdrop that the European Union announced that it would be welcoming vaccinated visitors from the United States this summer.Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times in Brussels that the pace of vaccination in the United States, and the fact that it was using the same set of approved vaccines as European Union members, “will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.”
She did not offer details on how or when tourist travel might open up.That declaration was met by enthusiasm from many Americans eager to travel. In an analysis of travel bookings, the travel app Hopper observed a 47 percent spike in airfare searches from the United States to Europe for the summer since Sunday, with the top five most-searched destinations being Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Athens and Amsterdam, according to a spokeswoman for the company.In Europe, though, the reaction was more mixed. “American tweeters celebrating their upcoming Tuscan summer holidays completely oblivious to what’s going on here. Me me me me me,” one Italy-based travel writer posted on Twitter, in response to Ms. von de Leyen’s announcement. Italy is in the middle of a third wave of the pandemic that appears to have peaked in late March, with the curve slowly going down. Across the country, only 9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 12 percent partially.But others expressed hope. “I’m really looking forward to welcoming the world to Berlin again,” said Hans-Rüdiger Scharfenort, 74. The retired engineer was one of few people on the Unter den Linden, Berlin’s most prestigious avenue, on a recent cold, but sunny, April morning. The street usually teems with thousands of tourists and locals.