Travel Agents Warn EU’s New Border System Will Hurt Tourism

| June 24, 2024
Travel Agents Warn EU's New Border System Will Hurt Tourism

The European Union (EU) plans to launch a new border control system called the Entry/Exit System (EES) in October 2024.

Many travel agents are worried that the new automated border scheme could adversely affect the tourism industry.

They believe the EES could discourage people, not just British citizens, from visiting Europe.

With the EES, all non-EU citizens must scan their fingerprints and take a photo at the border.

Travel agents say there is a lot of confusion as many people do not understand how the new EES process will work.

Part of the frustration for travel companies is the lack of official instructions and public information about the EES so far.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has released advice and tips for planning and booking EU holidays under the new system.

However, implementing the new system still presents many uncertainties for clients and agents alike.

Travel agents are hesitant to give advice when they are unsure if the system will actually launch on schedule.

“We are giving no advice because we don’t know if this system will really happen,” said Noel Josephides or the travel agency Sunvil.

Regardless of when the new system launches, “It will be bad for tourism and will complicate travel,” he told Euronews Travel.

As the travel industry is still recovering from the pandemic’s impacts, that’s a major concern.

EES possibly causing long lines and delays

The EES will record the entry and exit of non-EU travelers using their biometric data instead of stamping their passports.

Travel companies are worried that the EES will create extremely long lines and delays for people entering the Schengen Zone.

Ferry companies have warned that the EES was designed for pedestrian passengers at airports, not ferries or coaches.

It could cause “serious disruption” as passengers must first get out of their vehicles for the EES check.

The United Kingdom (UK) European Scrutiny Committee’s findings showed that the EES could cause a 14-hour-long delay at the Port of Dover.

The long delays could cause a massive traffic jam, blocking the entry points of local towns and affecting their economies.

Some border crossings, such as St. Pancras Station in London, may not have enough space to efficiently conduct EES checks.

To avoid delays, the EU has already postponed the EES’s original 2022 start date until after this summer’s Olympics in France.

Many local officials and transport groups have urged the EU to push back the implementation of the EES to 2025.

They are asking for more time to prepare or at least until the mobile app designed for advanced EES registration is ready.

EES will have people rely on travel agents

Some travel agents also believe that the EES’s security screening and bureaucracy could deter people from visiting Europe.

Travelers may view the whole system as an unnecessary hassle limiting their travel freedom.

“The more bureaucracy, the worse it will be for travel freedoms,” Josephides said.

Cat Jones, CEO of Byway, a travel company focused on trains rather than flights, said clients are already asking about the EES.

They are asking about its requirements and whether they need a visa to visit Europe now.

Jones expects more people will use travel agents to help them understand the new system.

She said planning a train trip can be “quite complex to plan on your own,” as “it can be hard to find information for train travel.”

A recent survey by the UK Department of Transport (DfT) revealed many people in Britain still do not know about the EES.

Many people may rely on travel agents for guidance when the schemes are finally implemented.

UK banking on an EES soft launch

The DfT stated that it is collaborating closely with the European Commission, its member states, UK local authorities, and the industry.

Once the EES goes live, the goal is “to minimize any disruption to people’s travel plans.”

It added, “This includes working closely with ports, carriers, and the travel industry to ensure they are supported and prepared to communicate the changes and any potential impact on travel.”

The EES is still relatively untested; if it fails, human border staff officers will still need to perform checks manually.

This could lead to even more lines and waiting time, as evidenced by the recent electronic gates failure in UK airports.

One of the ways to minimize travel disruption is having a six-month “soft launch” period.

During this time, travelers could enter without completing EES registration, though it would eventually become mandatory.

Even with the soft launch, some travel agents don’t believe the EES system will realistically launch this October as planned.

Pushing back the launch of the EES is likely, as with the previous postponements.

Still, transport companies are investing millions to build new infrastructure and install new EES kiosks to prepare for the EES rollout.