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Covid-19: EU support for the tourism industry

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Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Read more on how the EU is protecting businesses, workers and passengers.

Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have decimated the tourism industry, a major player in the EU economy. Revenue is expected to drop 50% for hotels and restaurants, 70% for tour operators and travel agencies and 90% for cruises and airlines. Europe accounts for half of the world’s tourist arrivals and the situation is particularly hard for European countries that are dependent on tourism, such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, as of 20 April, 100% of world tourist destinations had introduced temporary travel restrictions in response to the outbreak, 83% of which had already been in place for four or more weeks. No country has so far loosened those restrictions.

Many travellers have struggled to return home, while tourism businesses are facing severe liquidity issues, as there are very few new bookings and a large number of claims for refunds following cancellations. Air carriers particularly are under unprecedented pressure.

Supporting the tourism industry through the crisis

Businesses and workers from the tourism sector already benefit from EU measures taken in response to the Covid-19 crisis, including liquidity support, fiscal relief and an easing of state aid rules, as well as the temporary suspension of EU rules on airport slots to avoid empty flights.

To protect travellers, the EU has updated the guidelines on passenger rights and the package travel directive. It has also facilitated the repatriation of tens of thousands of Europeans stranded abroad, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. EU measures to support the tourism industry complement and reinforce measures taken at national level.

The EU”s tourism sector  

  • Accounts for 10-11% of the EU’s gross domestic products 
  • Provides 12% of employment in the EU 
  • Is composed of nearly three million businesses, 90% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises 

Parliament asks for more action to save the tourism industry

The EU should develop a prevention and management mechanism to protect workers and companies in the tourism sector and ensure passenger safety, MEPs said in a resolution adopted on 17 April.

Parliament’s transport and tourism committee has called for a rescue action plan for the tourism sector.

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Tourism

Restrictions on Tourism Travel Starting to Ease but Caution Remains

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The world is slowly opening up again, new research from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicates, with destinations cautiously easing travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19. As the United Nations specialized agency releases its Global Guidelines for Reopening Tourism, signalling a transition into gearing up for stronger and better recovery, 3% of all global destinations have now taken steps to ease travel restrictions.

UNWTO has been monitoring the global response to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The fourth edition of its COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism report, released today, again looked at the measures of 217 destinations worldwide as of 18 May 2020. The research shows that 7 destinations have eased travel restrictions for international tourism purposes. At the same time, several more destinations are engaged in significant discussions about the re-opening of borders.

Caution Remains

The report notes that 100% of all destinations worldwide continue to have some form of COVID-19-related travel restrictions in place. Furthermore, as of 18 May 75% continued to have their borders completely closed for international tourism. In 37% of all cases, travel restrictions have been in place for 10 weeks, while 24% of global destinations have had restrictions in place for 14 weeks or more.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world. The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again.”

Mr Pololikashvili also welcomed the growing confidence in the global tourism sector, noting it stands ready to return to growth. While tourism has been the hardest hit of all the world’s major economic sectors, UNWTO has led a joint response and last week released its Global Guidelines to Reopen Tourism. These guidelines outline the steps governments and the private sector can take to accelerate recovery in the months ahead.

Tourism-Dependent States Locked Down

Looking into global travel restrictions more closely, the UNWTO research shows that, the more important tourism is to the economies of individual destinations, the more likely they are to have introduced complete border closures. In the case of SIDS destinations (Small Island Developing States), 85% continue to have their borders completely closed for tourism purposes.

All UNWTO regions have more than 65% of their destinations completely closed to tourism: Africa (74%), Americas (86%), Asia and the Pacific (67%), Europe (74%) and the Middle East (69%).

The COVID-19-Related Travel Restrictions report also breaks down the level and type of travel restrictions in place, including prevalence of flight suspensions and measures including compulsory self-isolation and quarantine of tourist arrivals.

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Coronavirus: practical advice for safe travel

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As EU countries gradually lift confinement measures, Europeans may be able to travel this summer, provided the health situation and national restrictions allow.

While people will need to take precautions and follow health and safety instructions from national authorities, the European Commission has come up with guidelines and recommendations to help EU countries coordinate the safe lifting of travel restrictions.

  • Book tickets and check-in online to avoid queues, when possible 
  • Respect social distancing during luggage drop-off, security checks, boarding and baggage claim 
  • Fewer passengers may be allowed on board and you might be asked to sit at a distance from passengers who are not part of your household.  
  • When social distancing is difficult to ensure, you might be asked to wear face masks 
  • Food, beverages and other goods may not be available on board 
  • Transport companies may install protective barriers, for example between passengers and a coach driver. You may be asked to board through the back door 
  • Drivers should open doors automatically at every stop, so passengers don’t have to touch buttons or handles 
  • Stations, ports and airports should guarantee regular cleaning and disinfection and provide sanitising/disinfecting products, including on board 
  • There should be appropriate ventilation on all transport 
  • Passengers can choose between refund or rerouting for cancelled tickets. If the transport company offers a voucher, you still have the right to ask for a refund 

In a debate on 28 May, members of the transport and tourism committee called for financial support for the tourism industry to be delivered quickly and suggested a dedicated budget for the sector.

Committee chair Karima Delli (Greens, France) said: “Holidays are upon us. What are we waiting for? More information is needed to know where people can go or can’t go.”

On 15 May, Parliament approved relief measures for the transport sector to minimise the effects of the pandemic on airlines, railways, road and shipping companies.

Is it safe to stay in hotels?

Guests in hotels and other types of accommodation should respect social distancing when in common areas, as well as infection prevention and control measures such as coughing or sneezing into a paper tissue or bent elbow, hand hygiene and face masks.

Tourism facilities should provide guests with clear information and guidance prior to arrival and should have an action plan in place in case of infection in the establishment. They should also ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and good ventilation systems. Hotel staff should be trained in basic infection prevention and control.

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UNWTO Launches Global Guidelines to Reopen Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a set of guidelines to help tourism sector emerge stronger and more sustainably from COVID-19. The guidelines highlight the need to act decisively, to restore confidence and, as UNWTO strengthens its partnership with Google, to embrace innovation and the digital transformation of global tourism.

The guidelines were produced in consultation with the Global Tourism Crisis Committee and aim to support governments and private sector to recover from an unparalleled crisis. Depending on when travel restrictions are lifted, the United Nations specialized agency warns that international tourist arrivals could fall by between 60% and 80%. This puts 100-120 million jobs at risk and could lead to US$ 910 billion to US$ 1.2 trillion lost in exports.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “These guidelines provide both governments and businesses with a comprehensive set of measures designed to help them open tourism up again in a safe, seamless and responsible manner. They are the product of the enhanced cooperation that has characterized tourism’s response to this shared challenge, building on knowledge and inputs from across the public and private sectors and from several UN agencies as part of the UN’s wider response.”

Safe and security protocols for tourism recovery

The new guide, a follow up of the Recommendations for Action already endorsed by the Committee, is focused on seven priorities for tourism recovery based on the pillars of mitigating the economic impact, developing safety protocols and coordinated responds and fostering innovation.

The guidelines highlight the importance of restoring the confidence of the travelers through safety and security protocols designed to reduce risks in each step of the tourism value chain. These protocols include the implementation of check procedures where appropriate, including temperature scans, testing, physical distancing, enhanced frequency of cleaning and the provision of hygiene kits for safe air travel, hospitality services or safe events.

Innovation key as UNWTO builds on Google partnership

The UNWTO Guidelines also highlight the opportunity to foster a digital transformation of destinations, companies and employees with initiatives such as the free online training with the UNWTO Online Academy and the implementation of apps such as the Hi Card to improve international interoperability at the airports and hotels. The role of technology in promoting social distancing in hotels and tourist destinations is also highlighted.

This comes as UNWTO strengthens its partnership with Google. Through this enhanced collaboration, the UN agency will work with Google to promote digital learning and online skills training so as to provide new opportunities across the global tourism sector.

Secretary-General Pololikashvili added: “We are thrilled to be working more closely with Google. The past weeks have highlighted the enhanced role technology plays in our lives and furthering the digital transformation of tourism will make the sector more resilient and create opportunities for people all around the world.”

About the Global Tourism Crisis Committee

UNWTO formed the Global Tourism Crisis Committee to guide the sector as it responds to the COVID-19 crisis and to build the foundations for future resilience and sustainable growth.

The Committee comprises representatives of UNWTO’s Member States and Affiliate Members, alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Bank Group and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The private sector is represented by Airports Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

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