How Is Tourism in EU Recovering From COVID-19 So Far This Year?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has knocked the sector to its feet, but with the EU Member States lifting their travel restrictions, travel, tourism, and aviation industry are off to a good start.

According to data provided by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the general number of arrivals in the world has started 2022 in a positive trend, provided that the figure has increased by 130 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“While these figures confirm the positive trend already in progress last year, the pace of recovery in January was variant by the emergence of the Omicron and the re-introduction of travel restrictions in several destinations. Following the 71 per cent decline of 2021, international arrivals in January 2022 remains 67 per cent below pre-pandemic levels,” the statement of UNWTO reads.

Although the recovery of the various sectors on the destination, with coastal countries marking higher increases in new arrivals, all EU Member States have a positive outcome in tourism this year, with facilitating entry rules playing a major role, reports.

EU Tourism Was Off to a Rocky Start in 2020 But Began Improving in 2021

Data from the European Statistics Office (Eurostat) shows that the total number of nights spent at an accommodation spot across the 27-nation-bloc reached 1.8 billion, which was 27 per cent more than in 2020 but lagging the pre-pandemic levels by 37 per cent.

Moreover, the number of nights spent in tourism facilities peaked at 1.4 billion in 2020, being 52 per cent below 2019 levels. The most affected countries were Cyprus, Greece and Malta, with nights spent dropping by more than 70 per cent, while other countries like the Netherlands and Denmark reported declines of less than 35 per cent.

The opposite happened in 2021 as coastal countries were showing better rates related to tourism.

More specifically, the countries that recorded the most nights spent were Greece, marking an 88.7 per cent increase compared to 2020, followed by Spain (78.9 per cent), Croatia (72.1 per cent) and Malta (56.8 per cent).

On the other hand, countries with the most concerning performance were Austria, Slovakia and Latvia, showing even lower rates than they did in 2020 – 15.7, 16.1, and 17.6 per cent each, respectively.

Fewer Employees & Contributions in Tourism Sector Due to Pandemic

The tourism industry, the world’s third-biggest market source, supports more than two million businesses, which further employs nearly 30 million workers.

However, these rates minimised significantly during the pandemic, as a report by WTTC revealed that employment in Spain dropped by 19.5 per cent in 2021, accounting for 202,000 people being left unemployed.

Its neighboring country, Portugal, which is also a popular tourism destination in the EU, especially for Brits, witnessed 92,000 fewer workers – representing a 19.6 per cent drop in employment in tourism throughout the year.

Travel restrictions that the EU Member States imposed and were subject to, were the main reasons for the drop in tourism. This has specifically affected Portugal and Spain, which were go-to destinations for UK nationals, making up the top five source markets for tourism in both countries.

Recalling this season last year, some of the most stringent restrictions were imposed on UK nationals, who were not permitted to visit the EU for non-essential reasons, or could do so, provided they were fully vaccinated and got tested before they reached the 27 -nation-bloc.

Such ‘hassles’, which were necessary travel requirements, left Brits unwilling to travel to the EU–adding to the fact that tests for detecting COVID-19 had to be examined at laboratories, which were a more expensive option compared to rapid antigen tests.

Italy, the other popular EU tourism destination, witnessed a drop of 12.4 per cent in the direct employment related to tourism which accounts for 215,000 job places. In addition, WTTC revealed that about 263,000 tourism-related jobs would have been discontinued in Italy by the end of 2021.

“If we could not fill these vacancies, it could threaten the survival of travel and tourism businesses up and down Italy. Companies dependent on tourism have been hanging on for the upside; this is just another blow that many may not survive,” Julia Simpson, WTTC’s CEO, said, emphasizing the country’s economy could face serious risk if such vacancies remains unfilled.

However, the sector will see better days as a recently-shared report from WTTC shows that the tourism sector is expected to experience a boom, creating one in three all-new jobs in the next decade. More specifically, the EIR report reveals that a total of 126 million jobs related to tourism are anticipated to open in the upcoming ten years, with the global GDP reaching pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

The same source further shows that the sector’s contribution to GDP by the end of 2022 could surge by 43.7 per cent to almost $8.4 trillion, reaching 8.5 per cent of total global economic GDP or only 13.3 per cent behind the pre-pandemic levels.

Tourism Recovery Was Fuelled by Travel Organizations Calling on Gov’ts to Lift Restrictions

Travel organizations keep an active role by continuously calling on governments and other decision-making bodies to facilitate or entirely lift restrictions, pointing out that the risk for contracting COVID-19 lies more on how careful travelers are rather than mitigating the spread by not permitting travelers from specific countries.

The Airports Council International Europe (ACI and World, last year, recovered the G7 countries to support the implementation of COVID vaccination passports, which would be to show if the traveler has been fully vaccinated, tested or from the virus.

WTTC also noted that it fully supports this call, adding that these restrictions severely damaged the economy.

>> ACI EUROPE & IATA Call on EU Member States to Lift Travel Restrictions for Those Vaccinated & Recovered

“March 11 marks exactly two years since the WHO announced COVID-19 was a global pandemic. In that time, we have seen increasing evidence that border restrictions are ineffective. The latest research from OXERA and Edge Health confirms that by the time a variant of concern is identified and restrictions are implemented, the cross-border transmission will already have happened,” IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, said in regards of domestic restrictions imposed at the time throughout the bloc.

In addition, the launch of the European Digital COVID-19 Certificate (EU DCC) facilitated travelling significantly, as all EU Member States joined this gateway and enabled traveling initially within the bloc, and then permitted third-country nationals, as several foreign countries such as North Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Israel and Morocco joining the initiative.

>> Timeline of EU Member States Reopening Their Borders

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