Tourism ministers discuss how to boost the hardly hit sector

Issuing “Covid-19 passports” and organising summer “corridors” for travelers is among the considered ideas so  to prepare for the forthcoming season the holiday industry, hardly hit by the coronavirus crisis. EU tourism ministers discussed these possibilities, among other proposals to boost the sector, at a videoconference on Monday.

Gari Cappelli, Croatian Minister of tourism underscored that the sector has experienced an immense and unexpected decline in demand due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “Our mission is to be, as members of the European Union and as part of the most successful tourist region in the world, a leader in the recovery of tourism, which as a horizontal activity directly affects the recovery of the entire economy.”

Tourism represents 10% of the EU's GDP and provides jobs for almost 12% of employees in the European Union. In addition, tourism is the fourth export category of the Union, with consumption generating more than € 400bn in revenue.

For all these reasons, it is important to encourage the creation of joint solutions to the crisis of the tourism sector caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to create programmes and plans for combating similar threats in the future, Minister Cappelli stressed.

He recalled that in the pre-Covid era, more than three quarters of international trips made by EU citizens were towards other EU countries. As much as 94% of total overnight stays were realised within EU countries.

He referred to the idea of opening tourist corridors between EU member states, emphasising that it will be extremely important to include epidemiologists in the overall process of opening up borders and facilitating the movement of tourists. Epidemiologists should be consulted in setting the criteria and defining the measures that would be needed to ensure the safety of tourists. There seems to be enough goodwill and a desire to find a way to re-connect countries.

Many participant highlighted the fact that in many  EU countries, tourism not only contributes significantly to the gross national product by itself but also affects directly or indirectly numerous other economic sectors. It is crucial source of much-needed revenue for local communities and individuals. In Croatia, for example, tourism generated almost 17% of the country’s GDP, while in other Member States this percentage ranged from 2.6% in Slovakia to 20.6% in Greece.

Ministers gave broad support for additional measures and enhanced coordination at EU level. It was stressed that tourism should be amongst the main priorities of the EU’s recovery plan.

They highlighted the importance of a harmonized solution for refunding travel packages, including vouchers and agreed on importance of collecting information on tourism related measures and promoting best practices through the EU.

On the legal framework for tour operators, the Commission was invited to work as a matter of priority towards a common EU approach which provides temporary flexibility and liquidity and ensures a fair balance of interests between tour operators and consumers.

EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton stressed that the emergency measures and funds the Commission has mobilised should support Member states' efforts to keep the lifeline in the short and medium-term. He invited member states to use them to the fullest and ensure that they benefit a maximum of the workers affected.

 "We will need unprecedented funds to overcome this crisis. There is a need for a ‘new Marshall Plan’, with a powerful EU budget, to jumpstart the path towards European recovery and a stronger and more resilient Union. We will need fast action, pragmatism and creativity to recover and build a resilient and sustainable tourism industry. But above all, this crisis calls for solidarity. No country can overcome this crisis alone", Commissioner Breton pointed out.

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