When and how: post-coronavirus travel in the EU is on hold | Europe | News and current affairs from around the world | DW


No one can say when and how the borders will reopen for travel, said the German government’s Commissioner for Tourism, Thomas Bareiss. “German tourists are unlikely to travel to Spain or Greece in the summer,” he added. The Germans are more likely to stay in their own country or region this year, according to Bareiss, who stressed that Germany has “beautiful destinations”.

Read more: Where are we going? Tourism after the coronavirus crisis

The economic situation of the tourism industry is a disaster not only in the southern European states bordering the Mediterranean, but also in Germany. The travel industry is expecting a decline in package travel bookings of up to 70% this year. The European Commission estimates that with a 90% loss, cruise lines will be hit the hardest.

Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has said that the opening of the EU’s internal and external borders will be treated with great caution. “We have all agreed that we must first prevent new waves of infection,” he said after a videoconference with his European counterparts. He did not mention a concrete timetable.

Empty tables are pictured outside a restaurant in St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy

Italy has been particularly affected by the pandemic

Huge losses expected

In the EU, 10% of economic production (GDP) is generated by the tourism industry. In some countries, including Greece and Malta, the travel industry’s share of GDP is even higher, at 20-25%. According to the European Commission, Spain generates around 145 billion euros ($ 157 billion) in the tourism sector, while German hotels and tour operators generate around 240 billion euros per year.

Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli, who chaired the recent meeting of the Council of the European Union, said he expects northern Europeans to travel south during the summer season despite the pandemic as act of european solidarity.

Read more: Blockages lifted, European countries follow their own path

“We need a common plan for rebuilding tourism,” said Cappelli. He also said there should be a common health concept that would deliver a “coronavirus health passport” to tourists and tour operators. The Maltese Minister of Tourism, Julia Farrugia Portelli, advocates common European standards for the protection of health in hotels, restaurants, planes and beaches. “There are risks, but we have to manage those risks,” said Farrugia Portelli at the conference of ministers.

Other governments are more reserved and are also going in different directions. Austria allows the hotels to reopen on May 29, but says they should rent rooms to travelers from neighboring countries and, if possible, regions with low rates of coronavirus infection. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is campaigning for Austrians to spend their summer holidays in their own country this year.

Plexiglas and corridors

Hotel owners and operators of private access beaches in Italy are developing unusual concepts to ensure that potential vacationers can keep their distance, including Plexiglas dividers on the beach and hotels that are only partially occupied, with one-course menus served at set tables. 2 meters (about 6 feet) apart.

Read more: The Czechs float on the lifeline of the “Corona Corridor” for Croatian tourism

Greece is considering a sort of tourist corridor in Western Europe. Special planes could transport tourists who can prove their health to verified coronavirus-free vacation spots, said Greek Tourism Minister Charis Theocharis. Belgium is considering beach access cards. Other ministers of tourism wish to announce vacations in the countryside in order to relieve the hotel infrastructures and the beaches.

However, it is unclear when the EU’s interior ministers will agree on a coordinated border opening plan for tourists. European Commission officials who are supposed to develop travel guidelines have been reluctant. First, individual states should lift restrictions on domestic travel, making travel to neighboring regions possible. Then, travel between neighboring states should become possible, and finally intra-European air traffic. No one knows when tourism trips to Asia, the United States and other parts of the world will be possible again.

Make tourists feel safe

But will holidaymakers looking for relaxation and leisure want to spend a beach holiday behind the plexiglass, no party at the bar, no sports and group visits? Maria Frontera, president of the FEHM hotel association on the Balearic island of Spain in Majorca, says that the main thing now is to give holidaymakers a sense of security.

Read more: Cape Town: a tourist paradise without tourists

“It is not a question of returning to the situation as soon as possible, but of having all the necessary security. We must build trust and not allow ourselves to make mistakes. The destinations that are the first to control the situation and can also credibly communicate this to source markets will have a head start when things pick up, “said Maria Frontera. Mallorca Store, a weekly German publication.

The World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency, estimates that 96% of all vacation destinations around the world cannot be reached during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, who participated in the discussion of EU ministers, called for the speedy lifting of the restrictions. “This crisis has shown us the strength of solidarity across borders,” he said, adding that kind words alone will not save the millions of jobs of people who have worked in the tourism sector. emerge. Pololikashvili called for more reconstruction aid: “We demand that support be given to tourism so that it can pave the way for the reconstruction of the economy.”

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