Travel | August 26, 2020 2:19 pm

Croatia Might Want to Start Following the European Union’s Travel Restrictions

Tourists poured into the nation. Positive COVID-19 cases have followed.

the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia
The city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Martin Zangerl/Unsplash

When the European Union outlined its travel restrictions at the beginning of the summer — opening its borders to 14 different countries for international travel — the decisions made in Belgium weren’t binding for each member state.

The E.U. recognized that some of its countries might establish so-called “corona corridors” with neighboring nations, and that others, based on their epidemiological situation, might feel uncomfortable allowing visitors to arrive without a two-week quarantine. As a result, there is significant leeway for individual state departments to make decisions on what their borders will or will not tolerate.

But that also means that a southern European country like Croatia, which now relies as heavily on tourism as more iconic Mediterranean nations (check out its 25-year visitor chart, it’s insane), can make decisions on prospective arrivals without waiting for updates from the E.U. Most notably, Croatia is currently allowing Americans to visit the country.

Americans have been able to fly to the United Kingdom (and Ireland, as of late) during the global lockdown, so long as they register with governmental authorities and quarantine in one location for 14 days. But open travel to mainland Europe has been off the table. Croatia is the only E.U. member state on the continent allowing Americans in at the moment (Albania, Belarus and Turkey have lax regulations, but are not part of the E.U.), and it’s pretty clear why.

According to Skift, Croatia has reached 67 percent of its 2019 tourism totals this August. Considering that Europe at large is expecting 30 percent of its visitor totals (in comparison to the fourth quarter of 2019), Croatia’s multi-billion-dollar gambit is paying off. The travel sector, after all, accounts for nearly a quarter of the entire nation’s GDP. But all that recent “success” comes with a serious caveat. According to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Croatia increased its rate of coronavirus infections by 174 percent in the week of August 10 to 16.

It’s easily the biggest uptick in the continent — which has seen a resurgence of cases across several countries — and a rather forthright indictment of Croatia’s reopening policies. In fairness, of the millions who visited Croatia in the last two months, only 20,000 were Americans. But if you’re open to America right now, you’re sending a signal to the rest of Europe (to travelers from Germany, Slovenia and Austria in particular) that it’s easy to come to your nation and pull of a trip. Sure enough, all tourists need is proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

It’s unclear how Croatia will approach the last few months of 2020. They got their visitors for beach season, which was more than likely the goal. But right now seems like an important time to get coronavirus cases under control. After nations like the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria added Croatia to their quarantine-upon-return lists, Croatian officials instituted stricter measures against bars and nightclubs. They’ll need to really take matters seriously if they’d like the country to be open next summer.

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