Updated: Mar 11, 2021
The global travel and tourism industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. Many European countries are heavily reliant on tourism and have suffered severe economic hardship, due to the abrupt reduction in travellers.
A family on holiday. Photo: Pexels
Many hotel owners and travel companies fear complete wipe-out if summer holidays do not go ahead. The Chief Executive of Touristik Union International (TUI), Friedrich Joussen, urged the EU to lift travel restrictions and to develop a “timetable to see travel reinstated across the bloc and make holidays possible in 2020.” He added that Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Spain are all making progress towards re-opening holiday resorts.
Germany has begun to ease restrictions across all 16 states and an opinion poll conducted by ZDF shows that 55% of Germans back the gradual loosening of lockdown restrictions, while 38% believe it is premature. Whilst Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Mass, has extended a warning against international travel until at least 14th June, Germany’s tourism minister, Thomas Bareiß, stated that if the outbreak remains under control, restrictions could be relaxed in “the next four to eight weeks” and German citizens may be able to go on holiday abroad soon, as well as have staycations.
Germany has been in talks with other EU nations that have experienced similar drops in infection rates, regarding the possibility of summer holidays abroad. Bareiß supports the view that Germany’s neighbouring countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Poland and the Netherlands, as well as the Balearic Islands and the Greek Islands, could be safe holiday destinations for German citizens. However, Bareiß did concede that long-distance tourism will be difficult for Germans this summer.
Not only does this mean that German citizens could have the freedom to go abroad, but also that tourism hotspots could have the chance to economically recover. According to Francina Armengol, the president of the Balearic Islands, German travellers are “essential” to the survival of Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca. She assured hopeful holidaymakers that she would work hard with Germany to ensure travel routes recovered soon.
Armengol hopes that this will help to restore the island’s economy, as in 2018, “travel and tourism’s contribution to the Balearic Islands’ GDP reached figures over 12 billion euros” as the islands welcomed over 14 million foreign visitors, approximately 4.4 million from Germany. If tourists do not return to the islands, the Balearic Islands are expected to lose 1.8 billion euros and 400,000 workers could face losing their jobs.
Whilst these talks regarding summer holidays are in motion, Bareiß admitted that he had not booked a holiday, due to the “great uncertainty” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, it is important to re-open Europe for summer tourism in a safe way with health protocols in place. European tourism ministers are considering introducing a special “COVID-19 immunity passport” to enable Europeans to travel this summer.
Currently, the messages regarding foreign tourism for German citizens are somewhat mixed, with vague utterances of “soon” and “if”, and official warnings to not engage in “carefree travel.” But if tourist corridors connecting Europe’s summer holiday destinations are restored, this could pave the way for gradual recovery within the travel and tourism sectors, as well as allow for European citizens to slowly return to normalcy.