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European Arrivals Set to Decline by 61% in 2020, Says ETC

Photo source: BER

ETC: Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.

A new surge in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have halted European tourism recovery with arrivals set to be down by 61 percent in 2020, the European Travel Commission (ETC) said on Tuesday.

According to the ETC’s latest quarterly report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” for Q3 2020, with international tourist arrivals to Europe down 68 percent halfway through the year relative to 2019, the easing of pandemic restrictions across Europe led to a slight pick-up in July and August 2020 compared to earlier months, signalling people’s enthusiasm and desire to travel again.

However, the recent re-imposition of lockdowns and travel restrictions has quickly halted any chance of an early recovery.

“Looking at the months ahead, heightened uncertainty and downside risks continue to dampen the outlook with European arrivals set to decline 61 percent in 2020,” the ETC said.

Southern European destinations and islands among most affected

More into the report, according to data for the January-August period, Mediterranean destinations Cyprus and Montenegro saw the steepest falls in arrivals at 85 percent and 84 percent respectively, attributable to a higher dependency on foreign travellers.

Among the other countries most impacted are Romania where arrivals plunged 80 percent; Turkey by 77 percent; and Portugal and Serbia, both by 74 percent. Island destinations, Iceland and Malta (both with arrivals down by 71 percent) also performed poorly, challenged by their geographical location and strict border restrictions.

“As the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic grips Europe and in advance of the winter season, it is now more important than ever that European nations join forces to agree on common solutions, not only to curb the spread of the virus but also to support tourism’s sustainable recovery, restore travellers’ confidence, and most importantly protect the millions of businesses, jobs, and enterprises that are at risk, so they can survive the economic fallout,” ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander said.

Future outlook

According to the ETC, the importance of domestic and intra-European travel cannot be understated in terms of the role it will play in the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months.

The latest forecasts predict a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022.

European short-haul arrivals are also projected to bounce back faster by 2023, being helped by a swifter easing of travel restrictions and a lesser perceived risk compared to long-haul trips.

Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.

“The direction of the economic recovery across Europe will depend significantly on the recovery of the tourism sector, a sector which generates close to 10 percent of the EU’s GDP and accounts for over 22 million jobs,” Santander said.

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