12th October 2021
Despite an easing of travel restrictions across EU member states, a survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as reported in SchengenVisaInfo.com, has revealed that individuals visiting other countries for business purposes or to see family members have become increasingly frustrated with border closures. Almost three in four (73%) said that their quality of life has suffered as a consequence. So, what are the recent developments affecting contractors, including potential travel costs and the impact on travel and working time? Here is a round-up of the latest news from around Europe.
It takes a lot to dampen the spirits of the happiest people on the planet but even the Finns, who have topped the World Happiest Report for the fourth year in a row, have had a rough time of it during COVID, not being able to travel abroad except for essential purposes. But those smiles are now beaming again as authorities in Finland are now allowing fully vaccinated travellers with a EU COVID vaccination passport or valid certificate to enter the country restriction free, as long as the last dose was administered more than 14 days prior to arrival. Travellers have, however, been advised to purchase travel and health insurance in case of any difficulties arising from COVID infections.
Switzerland’s tourism sector enjoyed a bumper summer, with numbers during the month of August up by 34% compared with pre-pandemic bookings resulting in an all-time record of 2.5m plus hotel overnight stays. A major factor in the significant rise was due to locals preferring to stay at home and enjoy the stunning scenery that their country has to offer. The majority of travellers were from France, Germany (which interestingly came joint second in the Henley Passport Index global ranking, a barometer of visa-free access to global destinations) and the Benelux countries. However, visitors from the Gulf States and the North America are also returning in droves. Basel, Geneva and Zurich were the top tourist destinations.
Another country reaping the benefits of tourism is Greece, in the main thanks to French visitors who made it their top travel destination during the summer months of 2021. Keen to keep up the momentum and forge links with France, Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, who recently attended the industry-leading IFTM Top Resa trade show in Paris said, “Our goal is not only to continue this extraordinary effort for 2022 but to strategically aim at the alternative tourism we can offer in October, Christmas, February and Easter when the French have a school holiday and can travel.”
Updated work travel news for contractors
While some freedom of movement is being allowed, there are still restrictions in place. In fact, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advised at the beginning of October that stricter entry restrictions should apply to travellers from Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. This follows an increase in infection rates across the four countries.
Meanwhile Kosovo prime minister Albin Kurti has been very vocal in his criticism of the EU for not removing the requirement for Kosovan citizens to obtain a visa before entry to any EU country. This has been a bone of contention going back nearly 10 years. At the EU Western-Balkans Summit, which took place in Slovenia, he said in no uncertain terms, “It has been more than three years since the European Commission recommended for the second time visa liberalisation for the citizens of Kosovo. It has been a great injustice…towards our citizens who have suffered a lot.” France and the Netherlands have been the two biggest objectors due to high levels of institutional corruption in the Balkans republic.
Travel across the EU and its member states is getting easier although countries are on alert given the potential for new COVID variants and are monitoring infections to safeguard their own citizens. For global contractors looking to take advantage of the increasing job opportunities, whether looking to move to a new temporary or permanent workplace abroad, remaining compliant must always be their top priority to avoid any problems with local tax authorities. Our 6CATS International team of global compliance experts can advise on this and all other travel and health insurance matters.