The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have to adjust the travel advice to destinations outside the European Union. The ministry is allowed to give distant countries an orange travel advice (‘only necessary travel’), even if the health situation there is sometimes more favorable than in EU countries. They all now receive safer, ‘yellow’ travel advice.
The court in The Hague determined this in summary proceedings this morning. The lawsuit was brought by 54 travel companies, mainly specialists in long-distance travel. A total of 79 companies, many of them hard hit by the corona crisis, the lockdowns and travel restrictions, supported the summary proceedings.
The travel companies believe that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should update its travel advice, because a generic orange advice no longer fits the specific health situation in many countries. “The State must refrain from giving disinformation or representing the risks in a different way than they actually are,” said the lawyer for the travel organizations during the hearing on November 16.
The court in The Hague acknowledges the economic difficulties experienced by the travel companies and also says that advice sometimes seems inconsistent. But the judge also states that the State is not legally obliged to adjust the advice and that the State has policy freedom in this regard.
The travel companies believe that a distinction should be made between inbound and outbound travellers, between people who come to the Netherlands and the EU and Dutch tourists who go abroad. The judge says about this: “Dutch people who travel (usually) also return to the Netherlands, so that the risks associated with traveling from certain countries can logically also be included in the travel advice.”
Contrary to the opinion of the travel organizations, the court also writes in the judgment, “the State cannot be obliged to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers when providing travel advice”. According to the court, the State can choose not to make that distinction (for the time being) on the basis of its policy freedom ‘in an uncertain epidemiological situation’.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated in mid-October that travel advice for countries outside the EU would be relaxed at the beginning of November. No longer would the local covid-19 situation be decisive, but other safety and health factors would also be considered. That hasn’t happened yet. The judge now says about this: “The choice of the State not to accept this relaxation due to the sharp increase in the number of infections and hospital admissions in the Netherlands is not incomprehensible.”
‘Travel restrictions don’t work’
The far-travel companies involved are considering an appeal against the ruling, says spokesman Joshua van Eijndhoven, also founder of travel organization Voja Travel. “The main solution in the fight against Covid-19 is vaccination and timely boosters. Travel restrictions don’t work. New travel restrictions have now been announced for countries in southern Africa, but the omikron variant had been in Europe for some time.” Van Eijndhoven also points to criticism from, among others, the World Health Organization WHO and the European RIVM, the ECDC, against travel restriction measures. “Entry bans do not work and also cause a lot of personal and economic damage.”
According to the ANVR, the trade association of travel companies in the Netherlands, the travel sector in the Netherlands had a loss of turnover of 80 percent last year. This year it is at least 50 percent, “and even more for long-distance travel specialists,” according to the industry representative. About a third of employees have already turned their backs on the travel world.
According to Van Eijndhoven, more and more Dutch people ignore the travel advice, because they see that they are “inconsistent” and “out of date”. “That contributes to the erosion of trust in the government. For us it comes down to the same thing as if the government were to say: ‘Don’t go shopping at your local Albert Heijn supermarket, because that is a high-risk area. AH wouldn’t be happy with that either.”