In a review of the year, ECTAA, the European Travel Agent and Tour Operator Association, described 2020 as “the most catastrophic year in history of travel” due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
According to ECTAA, with turnover down an average of 80 percent compared to 2019, the value of the activities will barely reach 40 billion euros in 2020, against the 175 billion euros in the year before.
“Travel has been made impossible due to closure of borders and subsequent uncoordinated, contradictory and unstable travel restrictions, discouraging potential customers to travel and travel companies to start up again,” the association said.
ECTAA noted that the liquidity crunch of the service suppliers (airlines, hotels, events) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was passed on to tour operators and travel agents, which in turn were unable to refund their customers and instead issued vouchers.
“In December 2020, an estimated 7 billion euros are still to be reimbursed by airlines to the indirect distribution. In absence of sales due to the travel restrictions and health measures, many companies were required to reduce their staff, using temporary unemployment schemes or laying off personnel,” said.
ECTAA President Pawel Niewiadomski stressed that the association is receiving the same information from all countries: despite all the efforts made by companies and their staff and despite the public support provided to the industry, many companies may not recover.
“This has never been seen before! Continuous support measures are needed for the travel and tourism industry, which is the industry most adversely hit by the pandemic,” Niewiadomski said.
In this context, ECTAA said that coordination and joint initiatives aimed at supporting the restart of travel and tourism are essential.
The association mentioned Greece as an example, underlining that the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) brought an “invaluable contribution to restore consumer confidence and open tourism up for business in summer 2020”.
Greece was ECTAA’s Preferred Destination for the second semester of 2020.
ECTAA represents some 70,000 travel agents and tour operators in Europe, which provide consultancy and sell transport, accommodation, leisure and other tourism services as well as combined products to leisure and business customers.