The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) has applauded the European Commission’s acknowledgement of the immense damages the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused to the travel and tourism industry.
While announcing the Commission’s economic response to the pandemic, President Ursula von der Leyen referred to the health sector, retail, tourism and transport – the airline industry in particular – as “the most affected sectors” of the coronavirus outbreak.
Von der Leyen’s reference to the tourism and transport sectors was seen as “a positive touch in a very difficult period for the global economy” by ECTAA, which regroups the national associations of travel agents and tour operators of 29 European countries and represents some 80.000 enterprises.
In an announcement, ECTAA President Pawel Niewiadomski said: “It is necessary to provide temporary aid packages to help travel companies overcome financial liquidity problems. Such assistance is currently being considered, and sometimes already granted, in countries most affected by the outbreak. ECTAA welcomes the Commission’s announcement that state aid can flow to companies, once approved”.
ECTAA underlines that travel agents and tour operators, as a central part in the tourism value chain, are being squeezed from all sides: they have booked travel services for their customers and have made part or full payments to service suppliers.
“But customers are cancelling their trips and requesting refunds, without the possibility for travel agents to get the money back from the service suppliers. At the same time, customers are not making any new bookings,” ECTAA said.
The association highlights that “in this context of high liquidity constraints, additional measures are also needed to ensure the sustainability of the travel industry without any financial consequences for the travelers”.
ECTAA said that it will continue to work with the Commission to find appropriate relief measures for travel agents and tour operators.