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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

  • Our latest quarterly report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” shows that travel to Europe expected to be 54% lower in 2020 compared to 2019. Data reported by destinations to the months of April/May reflect the level of the disruption caused by the pandemic. Croatia (-86%) and Cyprus (-78%) saw the biggest declines reflecting the sizeable losses of key source markets, such as Italy and the UK, which were heavily impacted by the pandemic. The report also includes a special feature on the potential increase in domestic and short-haul travel within Europe and the role this will play to bring the sector back to life this year.
  • The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released an update to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe (13 August). Although the European market has seen an increase in the number of flights in recent months, flights are still more than 50% below the same period in 2019. Passenger numbers are currently forecast to fall by around 60% in 2020, which represents about 705 million passenger journeys. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and will not reach 2019 levels until 2024. 
  • The updated edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer (28 July) shows that the near-complete lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98 per cent fall in international tourist numbers in May when compared to 2019. The Barometer also shows a 56% year-on-year drop in tourist arrivals between January and May. This translates into a fall of 300 million tourists and US$320 billion lost in international tourism receipts – more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009.
  • According to the latest UNWTO report on travel restrictions (30 July), 40% of all destinations worldwide have now eased the restrictions they placed on international tourism in response to COVID-19. This outlook is up from 22% of destinations that had eased restrictions on travel by 15 June and the 3% previously observed by 15 May. At the same time, however, of the 87 destinations that have now eased travel restrictions, just four have completely lifted all restrictions, while 83 have eased them while keeping some measures such as the partial closure of borders in place.
  • The world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP), having been placed at a standstill for nearly four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, UNCTAD said in a report published on 1 July. The UN’s trade and development body warned that the loss could rise to $2.2 trillion or 2.8% of the world’s GDP if the break in international tourism lasts for eight months. In the most pessimistic scenario, a 12-month break in international tourism, at $3.3 trillion or 4.2% of global GDP.
  • The OECD assessment (updated on 2 June) shows that the implied shock could amount to a 60-80% decline in the international tourism economy in 2020, depending on the duration of the crisis and the speed with which travel and tourism rebounds.
  • The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimate (10 June) shows that between 14.2 million and 29.5 million tourism jobs in Europe are in jeopardy due to the outbreak.
  • 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 associate member SOJERN also provides insights on changes in flight searches and hotel volume. See the latest data below. For further explanations of the insights check here
We are Europe

ETC’s Engagement with EU Policy-makers & Stakeholders

  • ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander participated in high-level virtual meetings with EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton and a small group of key EU tourism stakeholders. ETC has called 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 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 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 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. In July, the alliance issued a statement re-iterating the need for an extension of the deadline for implementation of the rules.
  • 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 Bloomberg, The New York Times, Euractiv, NBC, BBC World News, CNBC, CGTN, Euronews, TRT Worldthe Wall Street Journal, Agence Europe and other press outlets.

ETC COVID-19 Research

European Tourism 2020 – Trends & Prospects (Q2/2020)

COVID-19 HAS WREAKED HAVOC ON EUROPEAN TRAVEL DEMAND The impact of the global health crisis is becoming clear with European tourism growth expected to remain below 2019 levels until 2023….

Read more

Long-Haul Travel Barometer 2/2020

Results of the latest Long-Haul Travel Barometer (LHTB) indicate that confidence for travel to Europe in summer 2020 is weak across all six markets monitored. What is significant, however, is…

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European Tourism 2020 – Trends & Prospects (Q1/2020)

EUROPEAN TOURISM AMIDST AN UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS Containment efforts across Europe due to the Coronavirus outbreak have left countries struggling to support their economies and have taken a severe toll on…

Read more

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

  • To support a safe relaunch of travelling and tourism, the EU has launched an interactive platform which provides real-time information on borders and available means of transport and tourism services, as well as health and safety measures and restrictions across all EU Member States.
  • On 30 June, EU governments agreed on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU as from 1 July. The Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation outlining the criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted and the first list of countries. The list will be updated every two weeks based on new data.
  • The latest revised list (7 August) includes the following countries: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity).
  • 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.
  • 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 May, 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.

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.


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