Tourism, a key contributor to the European economy, has been hit hard due to the worldwide lockdown and travel restrictions in the wake of novel Coronavirus pandemic. According to a research conducted by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) in April, 83% of tourist destinations in European countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece have introduced complete closure of borders for international tourism. Significantly, these European destinations were some of the worst pandemic-hit countries.
Approximately 27 million people working directly or indirectly in the tourism sector across different EU member states are facing difficulties due to repercussions of the nationwide lockdown. A major drop in revenues for tourism sector stakeholders is expected with a 50% drop for hotels and restaurants and 90% for cruises and airlines.
In an attempt to support the plummeting tourism industry which accounts for approximately 10 percent of the bloc’s economy, the European Commission on Wednesday offered a package on tourism and transport ensuring jobs and liquidity for the sector. The Commission package proposes guidelines and recommendations to pillar the recovery of EU tourism.
The package includes a common approach to lifting restrictions of free movement at EU internal borders, a framework to support gradual re-establishment of safe transportation, common criteria for restoring tourism activities, and a recommendation protecting consumers’ rights.
Furthermore, the Commission has proposed a three-phased approach to lifting travel restrictions across the bloc. In phase zero, members states should allow the cross-border movement of workers involved in the sector. In phase one, smooth transit should be encouraged for professional and personal reasons as well as tourism. In phase two, travel for all purposes should be permitted with precaution and safety throughout the countries.
Addressing the matter of job losses, the Commission stated that up to 100 billion euros in financial relief, as part of the SURE (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) programme, have been kept aside to safeguard the jobs of the affected citizens. Moreover, the Commission has made available up to 8 billion euros to finance small businesses hit by the crisis.
Considering that Europe is one of the most-visited regions in the world, the EU has been pushing for a staggered re-opening of internal borders with safety measures to kickstart the tourism sector which is on the brink of collapse. Governments are banking on the tourism industry in summer 2020 for revival of the European economy which is facing its worst recession ever.