Sun, 26 Sep 2021

PARIS, France: With European countries scrambling to contain new virus outbreaks with a litany of constantly-changing and last-minute rules, the region's travel and tourism industry is bracing for another bad summer.

Travelers to France were left in a bind last week after the country announced that visitors to cultural and tourist sites would need to obtain a special COVID-19 pass proving they are fully vaccinated, recently recovered from an infection, or produce a negative coronavirus test, the Associated Press reported.

The new rule led to tourists, caught off-guard by the guidance, queuing up for virus tests outside the Eiffel Tower to get a pass.

While France is weighing whether to extend the pass requirement to restaurants and cafes next month, Italy has announced a similar pass for tourists visiting museums and movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, casinos and other venues.

Recently, the U.K. government announced a 10-day self-isolation for travelers coming from France, due to concerns over the Covid Delta variant. The last-minute guidance, which came without warning, irked travelers, the tourism industry, and the French government alike.

Meanwhile, Denmark's decision to put Britain on its red list also upended travel plans for unsuspecting tourists.

"It's so hard keeping everybody up to date with what's required to go where, with so many countries and so many different rules involved," said Ben Heywood, a British national who runs an adventure travel company called Undiscovered Montenegro.

For the travel industry, which has been struggling to cope with falling tourist numbers, the ever-changing rules and the resultant chaos brought on more difficulties.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals to Europe, which dropped almost 70 percent last year, were down 85 percent in the first five months of 2021.

This year, international tourist arrivals are predicted to remain at 50 percent of their 2019 level, though domestic demand is expected to help bridge the shortfall.

Greece's Development Minister, Adonis Georgiadis, has urged the travel industry to put up a brave front.

"It's very important that we do not give the impression that we have lost control of the pandemic," he said.

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