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The European Union approved a proposal Wednesday that would ease travel restrictions for vaccinated tourists from outside the EU, bringing the bloc one step closer to welcoming international travelers this summer.
Ambassadors from the EU's 27 countries voted to welcome fully vaccinated visitors, Reuters reported, adopting a proposal from earlier this month aimed at boosting a beleaguered tourism industry. Additionally, they voted to relax the criteria determining which countries are "safe," and are expected to release a list in the coming week.
The EU has remained closed to nonessential travel from all but a few non-EU countries since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe last year.
While the United States is not expected to be classified as a "safe" country under the new guidelines, vaccinated American tourists would be able to plan a trip to Europe, the wire service reported.
An exact date when the borders would reopen was not immediately clear.
The EU has approved several vaccines, including Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
Several countries in the EU, however, have already started welcoming international visitors, including Americans. Last week, Greece reopened its borders, welcoming U.S. tourists who are vaccinated or can show a negative COVID-19 test. And over the weekend, Italy allowed American tourists traveling on "COVID-free" flights to skip quarantine.
Croatia has also opened its borders, waiving quarantine requirements for vaccinated tourists or those able to show proof of a negative test.
Wednesday's news means that travelers can start booking summer flights again, Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, told Travel + Leisure, with inexpensive fares to places like Denmark and even Paris still up for grabs.
"We've heard from thousands of members over the past few months who were anxiously awaiting word on whether they'd be able to take that bucket-list trip to Europe this summer," Keyes said. "Now...American travelers will be able to shed those anxieties and instead focus their energy on a far more exciting activity: trip planning."
Beyond entry requirements, the EU is developing new voluntary health and safety protocols for tourism businesses.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the tourism ecosystem, causing loss of income and threatening millions of jobs. At the same time, health and safety remain major concerns for citizens who aspire to vacations after long and difficult confinements," Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market, said in a statement. "The European COVID-19 tourism safety label will help tourism businesses ensure safety procedures ahead of the summer season, thus increasing the confidence of travelers, residents, and workers in the tourism sector."