Data released by the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) shows that the number of overnight stays in tourist reception facilities in EU countries stood at 1.1 billion in the first eight months of 2020, a 50% decline compared to the same period in 2019, amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The most severe decline in the number of overnight stays registered in the tourist reception structures in the EU was in April (-95%) and May (-89%), compared to the same months in 2019.
In the summer season there was only a partial recovery, with decreases of 71% in June, 42% in July and 32% in August. Between July and August 2020, the number of overnight stays registered in the tourist reception structures in the EU decreased by 37% compared to the similar period of 2019.
Between July and August 2020, the decline in overnight stays in EU tourist reception facilities was stronger for foreign guests (-60% compared to the same period in 2019) than for domestic guests from reporting countries (17%).
In all EU Member States where data is available, there has been a decrease in the number of overnight stays in EU accommodation facilities in the first eight months of 2020, compared to a similar period in 2019, from a decline of 29% in the Netherlands to a 77% decline in Greece.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, on May 18 2020, 100% of the world's tourist destinations had introduced temporary travel restrictions in response to the pandemic, 75% of which completely banned international tourism. In the meantime, EU Member States have begun to carefully reduce restrictions.
Many tourists have found it difficult to return home, while companies in the sector are facing serious liquidity problems due to the very small number of new bookings and the large number of refund requests due to cancellations. Airlines, in particular, are under unprecedented pressure.
Tourism companies and workers are already benefiting from EU economic plans taken in response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including support in the form of liquidity, fiscal easing and a relaxation of state aid rules, as well as the temporary suspension of EU rules on airline slots, in order to avoid empty flights.
To protect passengers, the European Union has updated the Passenger Rights Guidelines and the Package Travel Packages Directive. The EU has also facilitated the repatriation of tens of thousands of European citizens stranded abroad through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. EU measures to support the tourism sector complement and strengthen measures taken at national level.
David Harris, CEO of Ensemble Travel Group is quoted in an article by World Travel & Tourism Council:
"For travel consultants and advisors the challenges have been many, including the initial effort to address cancellations, refunds and rebooking, in many instances for little or no compensation, all of which further impacted by an amplified crisis that extends well beyond the travel industry."
For Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation, the travel sector has been very fast and efficient on defining and implementing safety and hygiene protocols, and the future of travel advisors is bright once we emerge from this crisis. He said:
"A good example of 100% effective hygiene and disinfection is Premium Purity– a solution containing only ionized salt and water, being implemented across two of our brands, as well as following all of WTTC's global protocols."
World Travel & Tourism Council published a report in September 2020 - TO RECOVERY & BEYOND - The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of Covid-19. They are proposing long term solutions to help recover the tourism industry but also other sectors that have been affected by the pandemic:
Every cloud has its silver lining, and it looks like the pandemic is forcing the tourist industry to improve services and offer more quality to customers and employees, while also reducing their environment impact.
Airbnb, the biggest accommodation alternative, was also affected by the pandemic, but has survived by changing their strategy and offering last-minute cancellations and full refunds, as we find out from a Forbes article. They also introduced "Enhanced Cleaning" procedures and recommended the hosts to increase the time between guest stays.
But even so, they had to lay off nearly 2,000 employees, 25% of its workforce, as it became impossible for them to pay the staff during the crisis. Brian Chesky, the CEO of the company was praised for the humility and sincerity with which he addressed employees. But in addition to compassion, the company provided real help for laid-off employees. They were allowed to keep company-issued laptops and U.S. employees received a year of health insurance. Airbnb posted a talent directory of departing employees so other employers could tap them as potential hires. More recently the company reinstated its employee bonus program and has started to rehire laid-off employees. The company also took care of the hosts by reimbursing them for cancelled stays and helping them pay their mortgages.
It looks like the travel industry found new ways to keep the business alive. It is constantly reinventing itself, adapting to the difficult time we are going through. One thing is sure, people are looking forward to travelling again, having their luggage packed for whenever the pandemic will be over.
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