Travel Leaders Urges Against EU Visa Restrictions

In the wake of the European Union Parliament’s nonbinding vote to restrict visa-free travel from the United States, Travel Leaders Group is calling on the U.S. and EU to work together to find a solution that does not involve new visa restrictions.

“Travel Leaders Group urges all parties to find a solution that does not impose new visa restrictions,” said Travel Leaders Group Ninan Chacko in a written release. “We believe visa free travel is mutually beneficial, and that new restrictions will adversely affect U.S. and European business travel and tourism industries.”

The vote is the latest in an ongoing dispute over visa reciprocity between the United States and the European Union. A principle of the EU’s common visa policy, visa reciprocity requires countries whose citizens can travel visa-free to the EU to also allow visa-free travel from all EU member nations. While the United States has bilateral agreements allowing visa-free travel from most EU members, travelers from Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria are still required to have visas.

What does the dispute mean for travel agents? Industry experts we’ve spoken with largely agree that any EU visa requirement for U.S. citizens this year is unlikely.

“This was a procedural action that they’re taking as part of a larger dialogue on the Visa Waiver Program,” says Patricia Rojas, vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association.

To move forward, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, would need to take action on the vote, which is nonbinding. If a country does not allow visa-free travel from all EU members, the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, is obligated to move to rescind visa-free travel from that country under EU regulations – although it can also consider the political and economic consequences of such a decision.

Top cruise-selling travel agents agree that they haven’t seen a lot of concern regarding the issue from their clients who have already booked cruises in Europe – only a few inquiries. Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Florida, told our cruise editor Susan J. Young that “Europe sales so far have not been affected.”