Bring Back the Tourists – WSJ

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Tourists arrive at Barcelona airport in Spain on June 7.



Photo:

Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

The European Union agreed this week to begin removing restrictions on American tourists after banning them for more than a year. There’s no reason the U.S. shouldn’t reciprocate.

On Wednesday EU countries informally agreed to add the U.S. to their safe travel list, which already includes Australia, Japan and South Korea, among others. The agreement should be made official on Friday, although some tourism-dependent countries like Greece began easing restrictions on Americans earlier this year. European nations will still have discretion to require quarantines or PCR tests for travelers. It would be wise to limit such impediments—particularly for the vaccinated.

Washington and Brussels have spent billions on vaccines, and new infections have fallen dramatically. The U.S. has distributed more than 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with more than half the country receiving at least one shot. The Continent got off to a slow start, but some 45% of its residents now have received at least one jab.

While locals in Rome or Barcelona might have enjoyed life with fewer tourists, a second summer without them would be more damaging than the first. Reopening at home after costly lockdowns helps. But economies that rely on tourism—and were struggling even before lockdowns and border closures—need visitors.

Take Italy, which welcomed tens of millions of foreign tourists a year before the pandemic. Tourism, including indirect effects, accounted for 13% of Italian GDP in 2017, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The industry directly employed two million workers the following year—some 8.3% of total employment. Americans, about 9% of visitors in 2018, were second only to Germany’s 13%. Prime Minister

Mario Draghi’s

economic reform ambitions won’t have a chance without a strong rebound in tourism.

While the EU is bringing welcome news, the U.K.’s hesitation is becoming indefensible. With nearly two-thirds of residents receiving at least one dose, the country has been a global leader in vaccination. Yet the government has delayed “Freedom Day,” when lockdown restrictions were meant to be lifted, by a month to July 19. The government may keep travel bans beyond that date.

Those allowed to enter the U.K. are required to take a PCR test before flying in, but that’s the least of it. During a minimum 10-day self-isolation, travelers must pay for another two tests. Some are required to quarantine in costly government-approved hotels. Is this the brave, adventurous Global Britain that Brexit was supposed to unleash?

Days before leaving office,

Donald Trump

lifted restrictions on non-U.S. travelers from Brazil, Europe and the U.K. Mr. Biden blocked the move before it took effect. That was a mistake then and an even greater folly now as more Americans get vaccinated.

While the Biden administration plays for time, some lawmakers believe sanctions would be the faster route to establishing whether the origin of covid-19 was a lab-leak in Wuhan, China. Image: Roman Pilipey/Shutterstock

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