I confess. The title is click bait. But it also has the unhappy aspect of being true.
The European Union (EU), that conglomeration of European countries that could easily choose the platypus as its closest-living relative, is in the process of getting its citizens back to work. Part of that work is opening the EU to tourism.
For a good reason. Most of us do not often associate European countries with a reliance on tourism to boost their economies. But that is not true. There are four countries on the top ten tourist destination list: France (1), Spain (2), Italy (5), and Germany (8).* Not coincidentally, all four have been leading the fight to conditionally open the borders.
But not everyone is being invited to indulge in a "if-this-is-Belgium-it-must-be-Tuesday" experience when Europe swings wide its tourist gates on 1 July. The nationals of any country that bans the entry of Europeans because of the coronavirus will be on the "do-not-bother-to-ask" list. The list is all about reciprocity.
Well, reciprocity and a coronavirus infection rate that is equal to or better than the EU's. That is why tourists from most countries in the world will not be admitted on 1 July.
Here are the fortunate few: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia (the country, not the peach-growing state), Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China (if it drops its ban on European travelers).
Yeah. I know. I wonder how a couple of countries ended up on the "come-on-in" list, but that has been true with the reporting vagaries since the virus started having its way with us, instead of hanging out with the bats.
The absence of the United Kingdom from the list is the most striking to me. Had it remained in the EU, the UK's infection rate would have notched up the curve enough that even Mexico might have been included on the visit list. But it isn't because the Mexican infection rate is currently far higher than the current EU rate.
I have been watching this issue for the past month as the EU deliberated. I have one question that has not shown up in any news article. I am curious how each tourist is classified. By their passport -- or where they actually live?
Take me, as an example. I have an American passport, but I do not live in The States. I live permanently in Mexico. How would I be categorized?
The answer to the question does not matter for me. As a Mexican resident or as an American citizen, I would be twice banned. (Well, it does matter in practical terms for me. I am trying to determine whether my October trip to Madrid is on or off.)
But it will matter for some people. Jose Enrique Salazar Gallardo is a Mexican citizen, but he has been residing in Canada for years as an art dealer, and has permanent resident status. He now decides to fly to Madrid for an art conference at El Prado on 2 July. Will Europe let him in?
Right now, all of my Mexican neighbors and I will be in the same tourist boat on 1 July. No matter how much money we are willing to lose in Monte Carlo, how many photographs we want to take of us saving the Tower of Pisa, or how desperate we are to be culture vultures at the Louvre, Mexicans (and Americans) will simply not be allowed in the door. Of course, that calls for a recitation of the Groucho Marx club membership joke, but I will avoid the temptation.
Because the infection rates in the EU and all other countries are still a moving target, the EU says it will continue to monitor its admission policy -- maybe as often as every two weeks.
That gives me some hope that the Madrid trip may still happen. I have this image in mind that when I arrive in Madrid, Spain will have hired Jean-Claude, the snooty maître d’ at the Ritz, who will check his reservation book and tell me in that far-too-familiar Continental way that he has never even heard of anyone named "Cotton," let alone that such a name would be in his book. He would then be dismissively wave me away.
I have four more months before I discover whether I can travel to Spain as a Mexican resident or as an American. I may end up taking my art course at MOMA, instead.
* Mexico is also in the top ten, at #8. The United States is number 3.