April 30, 2021 | 12:59
European Vacation Under the Tuscan Sun?
There is good news and bad news. We'll start with the bad news. The Euro Area is back in recession. The broader economy contracted again at the start of 2021, thanks to the series of lockdowns and restrictions put in place throughout Europe. Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal suffered a setback in the first three months, while France, Finland, Austria and Lithuania escaped such a fate. And the handoff to Q2 is a little shaky, but there is optimism ahead.
That brings us to the good news. Economic activity should improve handily in Q2, and perhaps moreso in Q3, as vaccinations pick up speed and as countries cautiously lift restrictions (not clear on Germany). For example, France's plan is to do so in four stages. It will begin the week of May 3, as schools reopen and some inter-regional travel is allowed. The week of May 19, people can go to a museum or a movie, or an outdoor café. The curfew will ease to 9 pm, instead of 7 pm. In early June, restaurants will be allowed to serve customers indoors, which will be nice as one can stay out as late as 11 pm. Then, by June 30, all curfews will be lifted. Italy reopened outdoor restaurants and bars this week (a little earlier than planned), and allowed some travel between regions. Like France, this will be a gradual process, with bigger moves coming in June.
This is, coincidentally, timed well: the openings come as the tourism season begins. The EU announced this week that all fully-vaccinated American tourists will be welcome in Europe this summer, although it wasn't clear exactly when the doors will be flung open. Greece is well ahead of everyone else: this week, it began to welcome those U.S. tourists who tested negative for COVID-19. Of course, all of this hinges on everyone getting their shots and herd immunity to be reached.