It has been a long time since American tourists could wander Rome’s Colosseum or amble along the side of Paris’ river Seine. And one of Europe’s trade bodies is sounding the death knell for the EU travel industry if an immediate action plan isn’t put in place to welcome back U.S. tourists.
European economies are suffering–France is expected to be the biggest loser (outside of Covid-19, it is usually the most visited country in the world) with an estimated €48 billion ($58 billion) loss since the pandemic began, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Germany and Italy are expected to have lost €38 and €37 billion respectively.
U.S., Canadian and Mexican tourists make up a sizeable chunk of the EU’s tourist dollar–North America is the most important origin market for EU countries, bringing in €60 billion ($70 billion) annually. In 2018, 15 million U.S. tourists chose Europe as a holiday destination and in 2020, revenues from U.S. tourists fell by 90-95% across EU/Schengen area countries.
The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) is the trade association for better tourism in Europe with over 1,200 members serving 63 origin markets. It announced today that the EU needs a solution for welcoming back non-essential travelers from the U.S. or it would risk losing billions of dollars again in 2021.
Tom Jenkins of ETOA said that potential U.S. and Canadian visitors are being pushed away because it isn’t clear yet when they might be able to return and under what conditions. “Europe is viewed as a 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 coordinated response from the Schengen area to define what it takes for business to resume,” he said in a press release.
The Chairman of the Canadian Tour Operators Association (CATO) Brett Walker added that what was needed was an immediate, coordinated, and fully transparent tourism recovery plan, threatening that the situation would become even more dire without one.
“The next 90 days will likely determine if there any safe and meaningful return of North America travellers to Europe this summer,” Walker said. “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,” he added.