Covid-19 outbreak has paralysed the entire EU tourism sector, putting its ecosystem under unprecedented pressure. Former crisis show us that tourism and travel is the most resilient sector in the world, but 2020 the worst year represented more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global crisis, according to UNWTO.
The report on establishing an EU strategy for sustainable tourism takes into consideration the international situation and the severe impact of the current crisis on the tourism and travel industry. This strategy focus on four guidelines aimed at (1) rebuilding the industry with pandemic response plans (2) refocusing governance policy within the framework of the Union (3) strengthening industry initiatives for sustainable, responsible and smart tourism (4) and planning the future of the industry.
Nowadays, a big measure of uncertainty remains as to the possible restart of travel and tourism, with the summer season just around the corner. It is fundamental a precise definition of all the requirements that would allow for safely restarting travel. This includes, among others, an EU Health Safety Protocol for testing before departure with no costs for european citizens, where quarantine should remain an instrument of last resort and, where applicable, its duration should be reduced to a minimum number of days throughout the Union. Furthermore, a common vaccine certificate shall be in place, in parallel with the roll out of vaccines. As a tool to restore consumer trust, in particular within third countries, the Union shall establish an EU sanitary seal and analyse the possibility of opening for the international travel in selected areas in third countries.
Continued short-term financial support is essential to the survival of the sector. Companies are facing liquidity problems and most of them solvency issues, so the right capitalisation instruments have to be in place. Opposing to the European Parliament request neither the current multiannual financial framework nor the Next Generation EU have a specific line forthe tourism and travel sector. The support relies on the Member States will to include the ecosystem within the investment and structural funds and the recovery plans. I believe the Union could do a lot more in particular financial support to countries like Portugal or regions in which, tourism accounts for a more substantial share of their GDP, such as the outermost regions like Madeira and Azores. In addition, other fiscal stimulus can help the companies as a temporarily reduced VAT rates on travel and tourism services. All tolls will be of help such as the support of the European Investment bank by establishing dedicated funding for decarbonisation and digitalisation or specific funding to promote EU tourism brand.
Climate objectives, under the Green Deal umbrella, and the digital agenda obliges all the economic sectors to adapt and swift to a more sustainable and smart model. For that, it is crucial to develop a roadmap on the twin transition that includes innovative measures with financial support to reduce climate footprint and develop digital services. Sustainable tourism should take into account current and future economic, social, environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and local communities. The links within this triangle are crucial with the contributions from Member States and regions. How can the sector act if the Union does not have a clear framework for measuring the sustainable Tourism? First, there is a need to create metrics and indicators to help destinations, tour operators and hospitality, among others, to measure their impact. That is why it is proposed the establishment of a scoreboard under the existing European Tourism Indicators System and the creation of a common data space for tourism and travel. Without a proper governance, we will never know how tourism contributes to climate change and the decision makers cannot implement wisely public policies to overcome the present challenges. Those metrics are also crucial to understand tourism flows and changes in demand.
It’s only a question of political will. Hope the Union has the courage to act now.