What the Future Holds for Traveller Mobility in the EU

By Shane Downey, Vice President, Government and Community Affairs, GBTA

In the past five years, business travel has undergone significant transformations. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated trends like virtual meetings and remote work, initially seen as threats. However, the enduring desire for human connection has supported the sector, which is now well on its way to recovering pre-2020 figures. Even before Covid-19 momentarily brought the world to a halt, policymakers in Brussels and beyond were already looking at ways to facilitate travel into and within the European Union.

GBTA has been at the forefront of discussions with European decision-makers to ensure that the right framework is put in place to ensure business travel can fully deliver its benefits to Europe’s economy and society. Ahead of the European elections, we’re taking a look at what needs to be done in the next mandate to facilitate travel mobility and keep Europeans connected.

  1. Borders: the final frontier for digitalisation

    The 2019-24 mandate of the European Parliament and European Commission was marked by a marked shift towards emphasising sustainability in all areas, including transport. As a new mandate looms, the expectation is that the institutions will shift their focus towards competitiveness. Digitalising travel procedures would help cut down on red tape and save travellers time when arriving in Europe.

    This is why we’re looking forward to the swift implementation of ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) from 2025. Similar to ESTA in the United States, ETIAS will provide a new way for EU Member States to conduct pre-travel screening to assess security and migration risks before issuing a Schengen visa, that gives travellers access to the 29 European countries that make up the borderless Schengen area. Business travellers will benefit from improved travel safety, easier border control processes, as well as a reliable and early indication of their admissibility into the Schengen area. Similarly, we welcome the Entry/Exit System (EES) which will digitalise passport stamps and allow for the automatic monitoring of the border-crossing of third-country nationals, reducing queues and bureaucracy at the border.

    2. Mobility is all about rights

    Since its inception, one of the European Union’s main missions has been to define rights across borders. From landmark court-cases to foundational Treaties, the Union has worked to guarantee its citizens the protections they need to be at home in any Member State. It only makes sense that it does the same to guarantee Europeans are equally as protected while they are travelling through the Union’s borders. As travel is recovering from the slump brought on by Covid-19, this is a crucial time to rebuild travellers’ confidence – as such, we welcome the Commission’s proposed review of passenger rights regulations.

    The EU should promptly approve and implement these new regulations and ensure that clear information is always accessible to passengers. Additionally, obtaining refunds in the event of cancellations should be made easier if not automatic. Furthermore, during emergencies like a pandemic, Member States should improve coordination of measures affecting travel to provide certainty to citizens. A stronger passenger rights framework will enhance citizens’ mobility, enabling seamless connections and fostering business growth.

GBTA will continue to engage with policymakers in the next mandate to ensure that new rules deliver sound policies that put passengers and the planet first while ensuring the sector can continue to thrive, connecting people and contributing to Europe’s economy.