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ETC’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak

ETC is continuously monitoring developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the tourism industry. We are working closely with the European Commission, and other stakeholders in the sector to mitigate the immediate effects of the virus and pave the way towards a swift recovery. Additionally, we have joined forces with our associate members and partners to provide useful webinars and data to help NTOs and DMOs navigate challenges now and in post-crisis times. Please see below ETC’s response to the crisis, as well as further information from our members, the EU and other trusted resources.

Latest Figures and Reports

  • The latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020. The crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures with the following scenarios based on three possible dates for the gradual opening up of international borders:
    • Scenario 1 (-58%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
    • Scenario 2 (-70%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
    • Scenario 3 (-78%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December.
  • ETC’s latest quarterly report indicates that travel to Europe is expected to be 39% lower in 2020 than in 2019. France is expected to be the most heavily impacted European country in volume terms with nearly 38 million fewer inbound visits in 2020, although the largest percentage impact is in Italy (-49%). Spain is predicted to be also heavily affected, with around 34 million fewer arrivals in 2020 compared to a year ago.
  • WTTC estimates that up to 13 million jobs are at immediate risk in Travel & Tourism in Europe totalling a loss of $708.5 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UNWTO announced that 100% of destinations now have travel restrictions in place with 72% placing a complete stop on international tourism. In Europe, 83% of destinations have introduced complete closure of borders for international tourism.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released an updated analysis showing that the COVID-19 crisis will see airline passenger revenues drop by $314 billion in 2020, a 55% decline compared to 2019. The latest report predicts a -55% decline in passenger demand (revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) with $89 billion loss in Europe compared to 2019.
  • An IATA survey of recent air travellers conducted in April 2020 found that 58% are somewhat or very likely to restrict their initial travel to domestic journeys. IATA predicts that domestic Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) will only recover to 2019 levels by 2022, while international RPKs are only expected to return to 2019 levels in 2024.
  • According to Eurocontrol, on 11-17 May the European airspace was operating -85.5% comparing to the same period in 2019. For the largest European airlines, the reductions were: easyJet -99.7%, Ryanair Group -98.3%, IAG Airlines -94,1, Lufthansa Group -93.7% and Air-France-KLM -93.0%.
  • ForwardKeys’ analysis of year-to-date flight bookings shows that they are 86.8% down compared to the first 15 weeks of 2019. Bookings from Asia Pacific are down by more than 100%, which means that in the period, new bookings were outweighed by cancellations. Bookings from Europe were down by 84.7%, from the Americas were down by 75.9% and from Africa & the Middle East were down by 71.4%.
  • OECD estimates that implied shock could amount to a 45-70% decline in the international tourism economy in 2020 in the OECD area, depending on the duration of the crisis and the speed with which travel and tourism rebounds.
  • ETC associate member ADARA has been monitoring on a weekly basis the impact of COVID-19 on travel searches and bookings to Europe. See the latest update here.

ETC Webinar Series

ETC has partnered up with its associate members & partners to produce a series of webinars for our members and travel and tourism professionals during the months of April and May. The webinars aim to provide new data on the current tourism landscape, tips for crisis management, and upskilling opportunities. Click below to see recordings and presentations from previous webinars.


ETC’s Engagement with EU Policy-makers & Stakeholders

  • ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander is participating in regular high-level virtual meetings with EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton and a small group of key EU tourism stakeholders. ETC is calling on the Commissioner to invest in brand Europe and a Europe-wide tourism campaign, promoting the force of travel to help the local communities and save tourism in Europe.
  • ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander also took part in a digital meeting with Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean to support the Commission’s efforts in coming up with an integrated concept on how to restart transport links for the benefit of tourism.
  • ETC together with WTTC has called on EU Member States to lead a united and coordinated recovery response to the COVID-19 crisis with four key principles to achieve a faster recovery, namely a common response and well-coordinated approach across the EU, recovery plan, industry toolbox to resume travel in Europe and supportive measures.
  • ETC is also co-organising together with the European Commission an ad-hoc informal network to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and the response required by both public and private sectors. The outcomes of the regular discussions of this network are transmitted to the cabinet of the Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, as part of the briefings guiding the European Commission Coronavirus response team.
  • ETC is closely cooperating with EU tourism stakeholders through the European Tourism Manifesto alliance. The alliance gathers more than 60 European public and private organisations, covering the whole tourism value chain and beyond. ETC is one of the founding organisations of the European Tourism Manifesto and currently holds the Secretariat and Chairmanship.
  • In March, the European Tourism Manifesto released a statement calling for the implementation of urgent measures to reduce the devastating impact of COVID-19 outbreak and stressing that support for tourism must be a priority in the crisis response, recovery plans and actions of affected economies.
  • In April, the alliance sent letters to the European Payment Institutions Federation (EPIF) and European Banking Authority (EBA) requesting for a 12-month delay in the implementation of the Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). The new SCA requirement aims to ensure that electronic payments are performed with multi-factor authentication and should come into force by the end of this year. Given the unprecedented crisis affecting the travel and tourism sector, the current deadline of implementation set by the end of 2020 needs revision.
  • On 20 May, the alliance issued a statement welcoming the European Commission’s guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot Europe’s tourism in 2020 and beyond. Over 60 tourism stakeholders agree that this package represents a first and important step to facilitate travel in Europe, support the sector’s recovery from this unprecedented crisis and enable a more sustainable tourism ecosystem in the future.
  • ETC is also participating in the Travel & Tourism Task Force on COVID-19 organised by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander represents the European tourism sector and exchanges the latest updates with major international public and private stakeholders, including UNWTO, OECD, PATA, ICAO, ACI and CLIA.
  • Moreover, ETC is actively engaging in media communications to stress the impact of the COVID-19 on the European tourism sector and highlight the importance of the coordinated approach to recovery in Europe. ETC’s interviews/comments/statement were featured in BBC World News, Euronews, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Euractiv, Agence Europe, Público, TRT World and other press outlets.

ETC Members

Please see below general information, health and travel guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic from ETC member organisations and their respective national governments.

EU Response to the COVID-19 outbreak

  • The European Commission set up a €37 billion Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative which allows authorities to redirect unused amounts under the European Structural and Investment Funds to inject liquidity into the most affected businesses, including in the tourism sector.
  • To facilitate immediate relief to hard-hit SMEs, EUR 1 billion was made available from the EU budget as a guarantee to the European Investment Fund (EIF) to support approximately EUR 8 billion of working capital financing and help at least 100,000 European SMEs and small mid-caps.
  • In order to protect jobs and workers, the Commission put in place the temporary initiative SURE – Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency. It helps Member States cover the costs of national short-time work schemes through the financial assistance of up to €100 billion
  • The Commission also adopted the state aid temporary framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the COVID-19 outbreak. EU State aid rules allow Member States to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The European Commission has already approved numerous state aid schemes to support companies affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including several measures directly aimed at the travel & tourism sector such as

And others – see more state aid measures by this link.

  • The European Institutions have agreed to suspend the rules obliging airlines to use their allocated slots at EU airports. The waiver applies from 1 March to 24 October 2020 as well as retroactively from 23 January to 29 February 2020 for flights between the EU and China. Without such a measure, airlines would have to continue to operate flights, even if largely empty, to guarantee their current slots at EU airports.
  • Transport ministers of 12 EU Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal) issued a joint statement on 29 April, asking the European Commission for a temporary suspension of EU passenger rights in favour of allowing airlines to reimburse travellers with vouchers. The transport ministers stated that vouchers should be valid for a set length of time and include the right for reimbursement if they are not used before the end of that period. Protection should also be provided in the case of airline bankruptcies. According to media reports, the statement was also supported by Germany, Spain, Romania and Estonia.
  • On 13 March, the Commission released new recommendations on the protection of EU passenger rights encouraging transparency and fairness in online booking and cancellation procedures. While reaffirming traveller’s right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets or package travel, the recommendation aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips in the context of the current pandemic, which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators. The voluntary vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the issuer, with a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed.
  • On 27 May, the European Commission put forward its proposal for a major recovery planTo ensure the recovery is sustainable, even, inclusive and fair for all Member States, the European Commission is proposing to create a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, embedded within a revamped long-term EU budget. Next Generation EU of €750 billion as well as targeted reinforcements to the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 will bring the total financial firepower of the EU budget to €1.85 trillion.
    • Tourism is mentioned in the Commission’s Communication as one of the hardest-hit sectors along with social economy, the creative and cultural ecosystems which “could see a more than 70% drop in turnover in the second quarter of 2020”.
    • In the Commission Staff Working Document with the analysis of investment losses and needs for 14 industrial ecosystems, the tourism ecosystem is put on top of the basic investment needs with €161 bn required.
  • On 13 May, the European Commission presented a package on ‘Tourism and Transport in 2020 and Beyond’ with the aim of safely restoring free movement and travel, and paving the way to recovery for the European tourism sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes guidelines and recommendations for Member States for a harmonised approach to lifting border restrictions, making vouchers a more attractive option to travellers, and safely re-establishing transportation links and tourism activities.
    • In line with the Joint European Roadmap to lifting coronavirus containment measures, travel restrictions should first be lifted in countries with comparable epidemiological situations and sufficient health facilities. Proportionality and non-discrimination between EU citizens should be ensured throughout this process.
    • The communication sets out detailed health and safety guidelines to allow for the gradual reopening of transport services and hospitality establishments across Europe. It also highlights the importance of information-sharing with travellers, committing to creating a dedicated portal for intra-European travellers with real-time information about borders and available tourism and health services. The website will be compiled with data from Member States and the travel and tourism industry.
    • Domestic and intra-European tourism should be the primary focus in recovery of the sector, encouraging travellers to explore their local areas, and providing new opportunities to promote coastal, maritime and rural tourism. The European Year of Rail 2021 can also be leveraged as a promotional tool for intra-European travel.
    • Patronage voucher schemes will be encouraged, and the Commission will cooperate with Member States to call for pledges from tourism businesses to launch such systems.
    • The Commission will strive towards creating a sustainable future for the European tourism industry, while maintaining its position as the world’s leading destination. This should be ensured through dispersion and diversification of tourist flows, promotion of sustainable accommodations and tourism services and upskilling for tourism professionals. Moreover, the tourism industry should capitalise on digitalisation (such as big data and blockchain technology), especially in tourism SMEs and rural areas.
    • Finally, the Commission calls for a coordinated response at the European level and proposes to hold a European tourism convention in view of building a ‘European Agenda for Tourism 2050’.
  • On 20 May, EU tourism ministers welcomed the Tourism and Transport package and stressed the importance of cooperation between Member States in gradually lifting of travel restrictions, based on epidemiological grounds, while complying with the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.
  • European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton called for the establishment of “A Marshall Plan” for tourism. On 21 April, Mr Breton stated at the European Parliament’s hearing that the tourism ecosystem is of the “highest priority” in the EU crisis response and requires financial “firepower” with about 20% of COVID-19 recovery funds to save the tourism economy.

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