Written by 9:40 pm European Union

Holiday boost as EU delays fingerprint checking

Research by Abta – The Travel Association, has found that travel agents are expecting a bumper 2023 – with 61 per cent of people planning to head abroad this year and 31 per cent planning to book early.

Trailfinders said it had seen a substantial surge in bookings and had already broken its all-time record sales on a number of occasions this year.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, said that bookings were close to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. She said there had been a surge in interest in long-haul journeys to places such as Australia and New Zealand following the easing of Covid restrictions.

However, European destinations continue to prove the most popular, with Spain, France, Italy and Greece being named by Abta as four of the top five most popular holiday destinations.  

The EES will replace the current system where passports of non-EU travellers are checked and stamped on arrival and departure.

Once in operation, holidaymakers from outside the EU travelling into a member state will have details including biometric data, fingerprints and facial images taken at an automated kiosk.

The EU is also planning to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System in November. It will require travellers to register for the system ahead of entering the EU country and pay a fee of €7 (£6.13). It will be similar to the visa waiver scheme already in place for travellers to the US.

‘Slow progress’

As well as fears that it will cause long queues for holidaymakers, concerns have been raised about the impact the EES will have on freight leaving the UK. Doug Bannister, chief of the Port of Dover, warned that the introduction of the system could multiply delays.

The Road Haulage Association has also warned that the scheme is not ready and fears EU-bound coach passengers will suffer delays at Channel ports. 

Richard Smith, the association’s managing director, said: “We welcome the delay as the issues with the practical operation of the scheme, including the infrastructure required, would not have been overcome by May. 

“We’ve raised concerns about the slow progress on getting the system ready, and then familiarising our operators with how it will work. This extra time to get it up and running effectively must be used wisely.”

When implemented, the EES will apply to all EU member states, apart from Cyprus and Ireland, as well as four non-EU countries – Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

This is the second time the introduction of the EES has been delayed. The rollout was first mooted for 2022, until it was moved to May this year.

It is expected that the introduction of EES checkpoints will be implemented across Europe in a gradual way, to avoid long queues in some places and to test the technology.

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