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EU Commissioner: ‘We Can’t Go Back to Tourism As We Knew It’

Photo source: @Thierry Breton

Three challenges must be addressed before the EU could call it summer in the aftermath of Covid-19, said Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton in a post on the European Commission’s blog on Tuesday.

Under the title “Sea, Vax & Sun – Let’s Get Set for Summer”, Breton lists three challenges that must be addressed before we can “roll out our beach towel”. 

Besides focusing on the summer ahead, Breton stresses the need for concerted actions that will establish Europe as a top quality destination by 2030, reputed globally for its sustainable offerings and attracting responsible and environmentally conscious travelers.

Breton referred to the importance of lifting restrictions and re-opening Europe to tourism for the economy, which means, he said, “a much-needed boost after a 70 percent drop in EU tourism revenues in 2020 and up to 11 million jobs at risk.

He goes on to acknowledge the efforts of member states, national authorities, the industry as well as collective and individual efforts.

Photo source: European Union / Photographer: Claudio Centonze

According to Breton, a top challenge was delivering enough vaccines by mid-July to vaccinate more than 70 percent of the adult population. This he said has been achieved.

“Europe has become the world’s biggest mRNA vaccine producer and is playing a leading role in fighting the global pandemic… by mid-July, we will have delivered between 500 and 550 million doses to vaccination centers all around the European Union – enough to vaccinate more than 70% of the adult population,” he writes.

However he goes on to add that it is “not the end of the road”. He added that it is crucial the EU fight “vaccine hesitancy” and make sure that all vaccines are administered as quickly as possible. 

As the world’s biggest vaccine exporter, Europe must help ensure global immunity to fight the emergence of Covid-19 variants through the continued supply of vaccines to low and middle-income countries as well as help other countries produce vaccines themselves, he notes. 

Photo Source: @European Commission

The second challenge Breton mentions is ensuring free travel, which is still being fine-tuned. In this direction, the Commission is helping people travel safely across Europe by providing up-to-date information via the Re-Open EU scheme or with safety protocols ensuring the interoperability of mobile contract tracing apps. He also mentions facilitating safe and free movement of citizens with the EU Digital Covid Certificate which goes into effect on July 1.

“Today, 17 member states are already using the EU system,” he said calling on other EU countries to step up their efforts to ensure that they can issue certificates and verify them without delay, especially at busy airports. 

Breton adds that EU counties should also facilitate acceptance of the certificates for domestic purposes, such as access to festivals or other crowded events. 

On a negative note, Breton refers to the lack of coordination among member states in view of the fact that Council recommendations are not binding. “In practice, we find a patchwork of different rules making it hard to navigate for domestic and foreign tourists,” he said.

He suggests considering granting the EU a greater role in ensuring a common approach to cross-border travel. 

The last challenge according to Breton is “reimagining a more resilient tourism ecosystem together”.

“We can’t go back to tourism as we knew it, and we’re working on it,” said Breton acknowledging that it “will take more than a semi-normal summer season” for the tourism sector to recover from the Covid shock, requiring at the same time a collective effort to transition to a greener, more digital and resilient future.

“Let’s make sure that we seize this opportunity for travelers, tourism businesses big and small, local communities and the environment,” he said.

In this direction he suggests member states turn to big data to optimize a wide range of tourist services, increase energy efficiency of buildings used for tourism, or by giving travelers the chance to design their own unique experience. 

He also proposes the introduction of circular hotels, where green waste is recovered for composting and used in horticulture and then produce is purchased by hotels or by developing new apps which will offer users valuable data and insight in real time on crowds and protocols.

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