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European Tourism: We need action and now is the moment

European Tourism: We need action and now is the moment

Op-Ed by Luís Araújo, ETC President ahead of the European Tourism Convention

Taking a leadership role at the European Travel Commission (ETC) at this pivotal moment for tourism in Europe, I firmly believe that we must act now in a coordinated way to save the millions of livelihoods depending on the sector in every country and capitalise on this opportunity to reinvent tourism in Europe.

The global pandemic has left tourism across Europe facing a crisis like no other. International tourist arrivals in Europe were down 66% in the first half of 2020 over the same period last year, with a 97% drop in the second quarter (UNWTO). Meanwhile, our colleagues from WTTC predict that 29.5 million travel and tourism jobs (80% of 2019) are at risk in Europe. Moreover,  Brexit is quickly approaching us , without a clear understanding of the future EU-UK travel and trade relations.

Next week all European tourism & travel stakeholders will gather virtually for the European Tourism Convention. It is THE opportunity to capitalise on this momentum, speak with one voice and ensure that our key messages, supported by the industry, are heard:

  • Firstly, we need to establish harmonised travel measures and restore Schengen integrity. European tourism simply cannot afford to have inconsistent and constantly changing national approaches. Quarantines are disruptive, unhelpful and should be urgently and collectively replaced by comprehensive cost-efficient measures such as testing upon departure based on an agreed EU testing protocol and coordinated tracing systems.
  • Secondly, tourism must be firmly anchored in the recovery and resilience plans of all EU Member States. Investing in tourismprovides long-term benefit to communities, visitors and business throughout Europe. We need to urgently help tourism micro-enterprises and SMEs, family-run businesses – the backbone representing more than 80% of the industry – to easily access the necessary funding to allow their survival and help rebuild their activity in a digital and environmentally friendly way with a clear focus on people: tourists, locals and workers. It is also critical to support destinations increasing their budgets for product development and promotion to attract more intra-EU travellers in short/medium-term and long-haul visitors.
  • Finally, even though triggered by such a dramatic crisis, we have a real opportunity now to reinvent the tourism sector of tomorrow. We have been talking for too long about sustainable growth, climate change, digitalisation and innovation. This is a real opportunity to press the reset button, challenge pre-established models and take all these matters seriously by defining ambitious goals and implementing effective action plans. Our compromise is to promote Tourism as the key element to Regenerate our countries and increase the competitiveness of the EU as a touristic destination.

ETC stands ready to work with the European Commission, EU governments and all stakeholders to overcome the present challenges and pave the way for responsible, sustainable and innovative tourism ecosystem of tomorrow.

It’s a matter of time. Each night that passes with this uncertainty is a night lost… that translates into jobs lost, enterprises closed, opportunities missed and a bigger and more threatening division between our nations and ourselves. We need action and NOW is the moment!

Luís Araújo,

President of the European Travel Commission

09/10/2020