For two years now Europe’s travel and tourism sectors have been battling uncertainty due to Covid-19. While the situation is nowhere near as bleak as spring 2020 when travel effectively ground to halt, the pandemic is still dictating and occasionally wreaking havoc on our travel plans. It’s not all doom and gloom though, ETC is hopeful the sector will continue to build back better in 2022.
1. More uncertainty ahead
Aided by vaccine rollouts, the travel and tourism sector made encouraging strides in 2021 with positive uptick in traveller intentions and a bounce back in numbers this past summer and autumn. However, the impact of the Omicron variant at the tail end of last year served as a powerful reminder of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. As more and more restrictions were brought in, travel to and across Europe once again became increasingly difficult for tourists.
Omicron aside, we shouldn’t dismiss the other factors that have also weighed on tourism recovery such as the confusion around the colour-coded EU travel system applied differently across European destinations. We are surprised that the ECDC regional colour-coded map will remain as a source of information for travel this year, despite the proposed European Commission’s individual traveller-based approach. This will generate further confusion for intra-EU travel, in particular for families with children due to diverging measures.
As we venture further into 2022, we must be realistic – what the year holds for travel and tourism will depend on Europe’s ability to limit the new outbreaks, harmonise COVID-19 rules and keep travel and tourism open. Ultimately though, there’s no doubt that more uncertainty lies ahead.
2. Time for a more joint-up approach
With another challenging year ahead, it is of paramount importance that there is a more joint up and coordinated approach to travel across Europe. While the creation of the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate in 2021 has helped simplify cross-border mobility, inconsistent regulations across Europe still threaten the recovery of the continent’s travel and tourism sectors. The only solution is for European governments to fully align all their actions.
Joint up thinking is also necessary on an international level. ETC is hopeful that with more vaccines and boosters administered around the world, Europe will finally take the decision to accept all WHO-listed vaccines for entry to the EU. This would undoubtedly help reboot long-haul recovery in 2022, something which is vital for reigniting tourism in Europe.
3. Building back better
One positive of the pandemic is the space it has given the sector to reflect on how best to modernise and evolve. EU institutions, national authorities, destinations, and the private industry have an opportunity to build back better by working together to reimagine and create a more sustainable, digital, conscious and resilient European tourism sector. We need to rebuild our continent not only as the world leader in tourist numbers, but also in competitiveness.
2022 is the year to put the wheels in motion. We must set ambitious goals and craft plans that challenge the status quo. It is for this reason ETC and our 34-member National Tourism Organisations strongly welcome the ongoing EU work to develop the Transition Pathway for Tourism as part of the new Industrial Strategy in Europe and the upcoming EU Tourism Agenda 2030-2050. These documents will affect Europe’s tourism sector for the next two decades.
Political backing and funding are key to help tourism micro-industries, SMEs and family-run businesses survive this uncertain period and build back stronger. They represent 80% of Europe’s travel industry and can’t be left behind. ETC believes they can lead the way, ensuring that Europe’s tourism future is more sustainable.
Overall, ETC is hopeful that with focus and determination Europe can create a new world benchmark for sustainable tourism.