An EU-wide coordinated approach that would ensure safety, eliminate uncertainty and restore consumer confidence, is key for the restart of travel & tourism in Europe, Hellenic Chamber of Hotels President Alexandros Vassilikos said.
Speaking during a webinar titled “Restarting travel and tourism in Europe” on Tuesday, Vassilikos said that the European Union has thus far shown uprecedented speed in decision making but member states still need to set common rules.
“The hospitality sector is looking forward to adopting a coordinated testing protocol for travelers and a common approach on quarantine practices for all modes of transport. Reliable testing could replace quarantine measures,” said Vassilikos who is also a member of HOTREC Excom.
“The travel & tourism industry has made tremendous efforts to adopt and implement health and safety protocols in a very short time. But all this will be in vain if people cannot travel due to different and rapidly changing travel restrictions,” he added.
Vassilikos also spoke about the short-term implications of the coronavirus pandemic. As he said, it will take years for the tourism industry to recover, while the hospitality sector won’t see significant change before spring 2021.
International travel & tourism
Speaking during the same webinar, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Government Affairs Vice President Lola Uña Cárdenas also stressed the significance of a common strategy for the recovery of international travel & tourism.
“We need a coordinated approach, not only on a European level, but also internationally. We have suggested the replacement of blanket quarantines with extensive rapid, reliable, low cost tests that will be carried out before departure via an international testing protocol. This means that only negative tested passengers will be allowed onboard,” she said.
The WTTC has also suggested the elimination of travel advisories and bans on non-essential international travel and the placement of selective quarantine measures for positive cases.
Coordinated by former Tourism Minister of Greece and MEP Elena Kountoura, the webinar also hosted MEPs José Ramón Bauzà Díaz and István Ujhelyi, who are in favor of a coordinated EU-wide approach.
Speaking during the webinar, István Ujhelyi – also TRAN Committee Vice Chair – said that real, effective coordination was still missing in Europe and called for a crisis management mechanism with direct funds and financial resources to support the tourism sector.
On his part, José Ramón Bauzà Díaz urged the EU to work with national governments in order to immediately restart travel & tourism.
“We cannot afford to wait for a vaccine... the sector needs to be reactivated as soon as possible,” he said.
“I absolutely believe that we can continue to travel in a safe way, as long as we take the approriate measures. It is cruicial that coordinated and comprehensive measures will be implemented by all member states,” he added.
According to Díaz, the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry of his country, Spain, has been devastating. As he said, in June 2020, Spain welcomed 200,000 visitors which was 98 percent down compared to the corresponding period in 2019.
Also present at the webinar was Greece’s Former Tourism Ministry Secretary General George Tziallas who urged tourism stakeholders to actively respond to the urgent challenges emerging from the pandemic.
“We must kick-start the sector by encouraging domestic tourism and starting international tourism when the time is right… and then reimagine tourism in a way that it will provide people and communities with more by demanding less,” he said.