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Europe Set To Lose Billions if North American Market Not Allowed to Travel

Europe Set To Lose Billions if North American Market Not Allowed to Travel

The European Tourism Association (ETOA) has warned that the EU’s failure to open its borders to North American visitors would result in a “dramatic loss” of upward of $70 billion in 2021.

Normally, North America is by far the most important origin market for Europe, delivering approximately $70 billion of spending every year. In 2020, Europe saw a 90-95 per cent decline in this business, in what was the biggest collapse in volume since records began.

Much of this business was transferred into 2021, with the bulk of it planning to arrive in the period May to October. The continued uncertainty as to when they may be able to travel is placing this in jeopardy. US and Canadian clients need to cancel with 90 days’ notice, so early high season arrivals in Europe are about to disappear.

“The number one question our tour operator members ask is about the borders reopening;” said Terry Dale, CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) “In fact, 14 of the top 20 international destinations visited by our members are European, according to our PwC study. It’s imperative to recognize that the recovery of the travel industry is central to the overall health of the global economy and USTOA strongly encourages swift collaboration between governments to develop reciprocal plans to reopen borders. Communication of those plans – based on virus rates, vaccination rates, and health protocols – will boost consumer confidence and encourage travel spending that will impact tens of thousands of jobs in the US and abroad. “

“While appreciating the uncertainty of this pandemic,” said Brett Walker, Chairman of the Canadian Tour Operators Association (CATO), “there must be an immediate, coordinated, and fully transparent tourism recovery plan, highlighting clear and concise safety measures and protocols to support the critical need for both a health and economic recovery. The next 90 days will likely determine if there any safe and meaningful return of North America travellers to Europe this summer. The greater and the longer the uncertainty, the more likely Europe will see the same decline of North American spending, between 90-95%, for 2021 as was the case in 2020.”

“What potential visitors need” said Tom Jenkins of ETOA “is a clear indication of when border restrictions are likely to be lifted, and under what conditions. This is business which our members have on their books. The clients who wanted to travel to Europe still want to do so. The risks they pose, which are already very low as compared with the general population in destination, (are diminishing by the day. Yet no indication is being given if Europe wants them to return this year.

This business represents sustenance in time of famine. It is export income, not domestic spend. Europe is viewed as single destination by long-haul visitors: it is what they think of and is their goal when planning a trip. So there has to be a co-ordinated response from the Schengen area to define what it takes for business to resume. Billions of dollars are at risk, and not just this year: Europe being seen as ‘too difficult’ is a marketing boost for alternative destinations. But this is more than money: it is the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people that stand in jeopardy.”

The ETOA is running a short webinar on this issue today, February 11, between 4.30-5.30pm GMT – register here.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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