HALLE, BELGIUM (AP) – The European Union (EU) said its vaunted tourist industry is facing “staggering” figures of decline because of the coronavirus crisis and the bloc’s internal market commissioner wants the sector to be first in line when it comes to recovery funds.
Thierry Breton mentioned figures that the tourism economy could slump up to 70 per cent and will be among the last to recover as the 27-nation bloc is facing perhaps the toughest challenge since its inception.
Across Europe, desolation illustrates the tourism crisis, from empty squares like the Brussels Grand Place to deserted monuments like Rome’s Colosseum while idle gondolas await non-existent tourists in Venice. Arrival areas in airports stand empty and beaches, basking in the sunshine, are deserted.
Europe is hardly alone in facing hardship — what with the deserted waterfront under Cape Town’s Table Mountain and the closed-off pyramids outside Cairo. But Breton said the European market accounts for half of world tourism.
The unprecedented scenes since World War II are hitting anything from multinational airlines to family-owned hotels.
“Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” Breton told a European Parliament committee via videolink yesterday.
Based on information from international institutions and trade groups, Breton said that “we are looking at quite staggering figures,” adding that between EUR275 and EUR400 billion (USD300 to USD435 billion) would be lost for the tourism and travel industry because of the pandemic.
He said the estimate for international travel was a decline of up to 30 per cent this year while tourism could be hit with a slump between 45 per cent and 70 per cent in its economy.
“The loss of earnings at European level we are looking at for hotels and restaurants is a magnitude of at least 50 per cent in terms of annual income,” Breton said, saying it could rise to 70 per cent for tour operations and travel agencies and even more for some cruise and airline companies.