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ETC’s response to COVID-19

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 effects of the crisis 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 proportion of Europeans willing to travel during spring 2021 grew by 20% compared to the November 2020 survey, with 1 out of 3 respondents now stating this intention. At the same time, the number of Europeans planning to travel in the next six months increased slightly from 49% to 52%. These two figures point to a more positive outlook for spring-summer, while only 12% of respondents consider taking a trip in January-February 2021. That is according to the latest report from the European Travel Commission (ETC) “Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 4” (19 January 2021) featuring data collected in December 2020.
  • UNWTO reports (28 January 2021) that Europe recorded a 70% decrease in arrivals in 2020, despite a small and short-lived revival in the summer of 2020. The region suffered the largest drop in absolute terms, with over 500 million fewer international tourists in 2020. Destinations worldwide welcomed 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions. The collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues. More latest numbers are available in the UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker.
  • EUROCONTROL reports (1 January 2021) that European air traffic for 2020 closed out at -55% of 2019 levels. In total, 5.0 million flights operated in 2020 compared with 11.1 in 2019, a loss of 6.1 million flights. European traffic for the whole of 2021 is expected to recover to 51% of 2019 levels, with faster recovery foreseen from the summer onwards.
  • OECD now estimates (16 December 2020) international tourism will fall by around 80% in 2020. No meaningful recovery in international tourism flows is foreseen until well into 2021, and is likely to take some years.
  • The latest figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council (6 November 2020) show that 18.8 million jobs in Europe (11.5 million in the EU) have already been impacted in the travel & tourism sector in 2020. WTTC also launched a data dashboard highlighting the recovery of travel demand across flights and hotels, as well as revealing the shifting intentions of travellers through online travel searches.
  • According to the eighth edition of the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report (2 December 2020), 70% of all global destinations have eased restrictions on travel introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • ETC’s latest quarterly report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” for Q3 2020 (10 November 2020) predicts a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022. European short-haul arrivals are also projected to bounce back faster by 2023, being helped by a swifter easing of travel restrictions and a lesser perceived risk compared to long-haul trips. Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.
  • 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 2020. 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.
  • 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 is co-organising together with the European Commission a weekly 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 has already hosted over 30 meetings of the group.
  • ETC is also 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 October, the European Tourism Manifesto alliance issued a statement urging EU Member States to make tourism a strategic element in their national recovery plans in order to harness the potential of the sector to generate jobs and growth, and to reap the benefits from green and digital transitions. Other latest statements on COVID-19 tourism recovery and support measures can be found here.
  • ETC together with over 20 travel and tourism bodies as well as unions across Europe united in an unprecedented call for European Commission leadership to replace quarantine restrictions with an EU Testing Protocol for Travel in a bid to save the livelihoods of more than 27 million Europeans who work in the sector.
  • ETC actively participated in the European Tourism Convention organised by the European Commission on October 12. ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander was appointed as a rapporteur for the workshop on Safe & Seamless Tourism Experiences.
  • 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 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 The Washington Post, Euronews, Bloomberg, The New York Times, Euractiv, NBC, BBC World News, CNBC, CGTN, TRT World, The Wall Street Journal, Agence Europe and other press outlets.

ETC COVID-19 Research

Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 4

EUROPEANS INCREASINGLY EAGER TO TRAVEL DURING SPRING 2021 AS COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT BEGINS 32% of respondents indicated that they intend to take a trip during April-June 2021, a 20% rise…

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Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 3

EUROPEANS’ DESIRE TO TRAVEL DETERIORATES AHEAD OF THE APPROACHING WINTER HOLIDAYS 49% of respondents indicated that they intend to travel before mid-2021 while uncertainty about the exact timing of their…

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Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 2

EUROPEANS MAINTAIN A ROBUST DESIRE TO TRAVEL, PLANNING 2021 TRIPS DESPITE COVID-19 SECOND WAVE Despite the resurgence of the pandemic in Europe, 54% of respondents indicated that they will take…

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European Tourism 2020 – Trends & Prospects (Q3/2020)

Fears over a second wave of Covid-19 infections into the autumn months materialise in Europe The easing of pandemic restrictions is being reversed as European destinations see a surge in…

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Long-Haul Travel Barometer 3/2020

The latest Long-Haul Travel Barometer (LHTB) indicates a positive shift in people’s attitudes to overseas travel in September-December 2020. Still, it will take a long time before confidence for travel…

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Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 1


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Handbook on COVID-19 Recovery Strategies for National Tourism Organisations

As businesses and communities rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be vital to ensure that this recovery takes place in a way that reduces the negative impacts of tourism…

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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….

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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…

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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 Re-open EU 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 13 October, the Council adopted a recommendation in order to coordinate measures affecting free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This recommendation includes a single map, which will show the risk levels across the regions in Europe using a traffic light system. On the basis of this map, Member States will decide whether they introduce certain restrictions, such as quarantine or tests, on travellers coming from other areas. There will be no restrictions on travellers coming from ‘green’ regions.
  • 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 latest revised list (28 January) includes the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand 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. The budget was officially approved on 17 December.
    • 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’.
  • 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. By 7 October, the Commission has presented proposals to the Council for decisions to grant financial support to 17 Member States under the SURE instrument.
  • 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. In January 2021, the Temporary Framework was prolonged and expanded until 31 December 2021.
  • The European Commission has approved numerous state aid schemes to support companies affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including 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.
  • In October, the European Commission decided to extend the slot waiver to cover the entire winter season, until 27 March 2021.
  • 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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