Will Swiss residents be able to travel freely within Europe when borders reopen?

Switzerland’s borders with France, Germany, and Austria are going to re-open on June 15th if there is no rebound of Covid-19 infections.

Will Swiss residents be able to travel freely within Europe when borders reopen?
Beach holidays may not be possible in the near future. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Karin Keller-Sutter, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, said the opening means that “tourism will be possible”.

But that may not necessarily be the case, at least initially.

Will we be able to go on holiday in the neighbouring countries?

It depends on several factors, including not only the health situation, but also internal restrictions of each nation.

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager already said that “it’s not going to be a normal summer holiday season.” 

The EU Commission published a report this week detailing “a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations”.

Italy, for instance, has not eased its entry restrictions yet, as it is still in partial lockdown, so holidays there seem unlikely for the time being.

READ MORE: 'This won't be a normal summer': How the EU hopes to save the holiday season 

What about France? Can we spend a weekend in Paris or somewhere else in the country from June 15? 

“Personally, I would not make a reservation yet”, Frédéric Journès, the French ambassador  to Switzerland told RTS television.

For the time being, “I do not want to give you false hope. It is not yet decided,” he added.

Why, then, has Karine Keller-Sutter announced that travel would be possible?

It is likely due to the difference in interpretation of the agreement between Bern and Paris. For France, June 15th is the earliest deadline for easing border restrictions; for Switzerland, it is a date for a possible reopening of the borders.

“What I can say is that we maintain the border controls until June 15th. Then, depending on the situation, we will see how much we can loosen it”, Journès said.

He added that for the time being, travel of more than 100 kilometres from one’s home is prohibited in France, unless there is a compelling professional or family reason; this restriction will stay in place until June 2nd at the earliest. If extended, however, this measure would be a major obstacle to tourism, as it is unlikely that France will treat foreign tourists more favourably than its own residents, he added.

What about travel to Germany and Austria?

There is more chance of traveling to these two countries, as they have been less severely affected by the pandemic. Also, they don’t have drastic movement restrictions in place, like those implemented in France.

When will travel to other European countries, as well as to other continents, be possible?

Although Swiss International Airlines is resuming some of its services to various European destinations, as well as long-haul flights, in June, many nations, like Italy and Croatia, have not yet opened to tourism. Other destinations such as Greece and the UK, may require foreigners to be quarantined.

As far as North America is concerned, both the United States and Canada have a ban in place for non-essential travel from abroad, as do many countries in Asia and South America. 

READ MORE: Swiss airline to resume some flights in June 



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Where do residents of Switzerland plan to spend their summer holidays?

Local tourism officials are recommending that Switzerland’s population stays in the country this year. But a new survey shows the majority prefer to venture abroad.

Where do residents of Switzerland plan to spend their summer holidays?
Residents of Switzerland like to spend their holidays on Mediterranean beaches. Photo by AFP

After three months of being stuck at home and living under various restrictions, staycations are the last thing that many of Switzerland’s residents want to do this summer.

“People often tell us that they don’t want to have the destination of their holidays imposed on them”, Stéphane Jayet, vice-president of the Swiss Travel Federation told RTS television

And Rafael Matos, a tourism teacher at HES-SO in Valais, added that “the Swiss are among the nationalities which travel the most. And we have the right to travel. It has almost become a human right “.

This year, Switzerland’s public dreams of relaxing by a warm sea, in the shade of palm trees.

A new survey shows that only 19 percent of residents will likely heed the call of tourism authorities and stay in Switzerland this summer. 

The other 80 percent said they would like to vacation in the Mediterranean countries, but mostly in those that are accessible by car or train, since flight schedules may be uncertain in the foreseeable future.

That means Italy and France, both of which can be reached by car or train within five or six hours from Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Where can you travel in Europe? EU launches new website to help tourists 

But unlike previous years, when most people used to book their holidays well ahead of time, this summer “a lot of people will opt for the ‘last-minute’ deals”, Jayet said.

Foreign vacations seemed impossible just weeks ago, when European countries closed their borders amid the spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

 In April, the majority of Switzerland’s public planned to stay in the country for their holidays.

In fact, tourism authorities are urging residents to spend their summer holidays in the country to help the sector rebound from the huge losses it suffered during the Covid-19 crisis — nearly 9 billion francs in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March. 

Officials even launched two campaigns, ‘We need Switzerland’ and ‘Clean and Safe’ to entice people to stay.