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Reopening International Travel is First Step for Events Outside the USA

22 May, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It’s too early to start laying plans for youth tournaments outside the U.S. but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate every milestone leading to that day. The European Union confirmed last week that it will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers this summer, reversing a ban on non-essential travel from the U.S. that had been in place since March 2020.

The travel blog, The Points Guy, notes, “Unfortunately, we still don’t have a timeline for when the EU will implement this policy. EU Commissioner Christian Wigand did not say when the change to border restrictions would go into effect, however, he did say it will depend on individual countries setting up their respective systems to check proof of vaccination.”

“Today EU ambassadors agreed to update the approach to travel from outside the European Union,” Wigand said. The European Council “now recommends that member states ease some restrictions, in particular for those vaccinated with an EU-authorized vaccine.”

Conde Nast Traveler has noted that Reuters reports that the change will be adopted in time for summer. 

In order to travel, individuals must be fully vaccinated with one of the approved vaccines in the EU, which means that any vaccine that’s approved for use in the U.S. will be accepted — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer. Passengers who aren’t fully vaccinated will likely need a negative COVID-19 test result and may be required to quarantine.

So perhaps it’s just as well international youth tournaments aren’t starting up quite yet. (For another thing, a majority of individuals still don’t have Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses, and with the deadline to get that having been moved to 2023, it’s unlikely there will be much of a sense of urgency among travelers).

But the reopening of international travel will be a boon to the leisure tourism market – and can help bring in athletes who are interested in competing in large events like marathons, triathlons and racquet sports tournaments. These will likely be the first arenas in which we’ll see amateur athletes competing.

The EU countries affected by the decision are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

A country-by-country guide to current travel regulations can be found here; however, it is imperative to know that restrictions can (and likely will) change on a forward-going basis.

One of the roadblocks to international travel (and in fact, to any air travel) has been the overabundance of vaccine passport platforms available on the market.  However, The New York Times reports that officials in the U.S. and the E.U. are in ongoing talks aiming to make a vaccine certificate acceptable throughout both regions, so that travelers could rely on one universal health pass to get around. 

According to the Times, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told reporters that the United States was “on track” and making “huge progress” with its campaign to reach so-called herd immunity, or the vaccination of 70 percent of adults, by mid-June.

She added that resumption of travel would depend “on the epidemiological situation, but the situation is improving in the United States, as it is, hopefully, also improving in the European Union.”

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