France is back: Borders reopen to American tourists, others

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FILE - In this Tuesday, June 23, 2020 file photo, a guard stands in front of the Louvre museum entrance during a visit ahead of its reopening next July 6, in Paris. After a very bad year, Paris tour operator Marc Vernhet sees a ray of light with the promised return of tourists from the United States and elsewhere who are welcome in France as of Wednesday, June 9, 2021 if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS – After “a very bad year,” Paris tour operator Marc Vernhet sees a ray of light with the promised return of tourists from the United States and elsewhere who are welcome in France as of Wednesday if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

His agency, 2CVParisTour.com, is starting to get bookings again from Americans for its sightseeing tours conducted in quirky, bug-eyed Citroen cars. June is still very lean, but July is looking better, Vernhet said as France took the first steps toward rebuilding its position as a top destination for foreign tourists.

Before the pandemic, Vernhet ran three or four tours of the capital per day. The work dried up when France locked down, and he's only doing around three tours per week now, nearly exclusively for French visitors. Vernhet hailed the reopening of France's borders for vaccinated tourists as “excellent news” but said it is going to take a few more weeks for business to pick up and that “I’m not expecting to work correctly before mid-July."

“We've been waiting for this for months and months,” he said.

To be allowed in for tourism, Americans and other visitors from most countries outside of Europe will need to show that they have been fully inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines approved by the European Union’s medicines agency.

France’s acceptance of only the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines means tourism isn't immediately coming back from the lucrative markets of China and Russia, which use vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Without one of the those four vaccines, most non-EU visitors will still need to prove that they have a compelling reason to visit France and must quarantine on arrival.

But European visitors and those from a handful of low-risk countries are being welcomed back with open arms, even if they are not vaccinated. These so-called “green” countries include Japan, South Korea and Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Lebanon and Israel. All EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are also "green." Vaccinated tourists from these countries can waltz right in; the unvaccinated need a recent negative test.