But what will this closure mean for the already lukewarm tourism sector in Europe and the upcoming winter holiday season?
“In the UK, most hotels have high levels of food and drink,” Thomas Magnuson, CEO of Magnuson Hotels, told UK-based Skift. “And [at] During the Christmas season there are traditionally many events – family events, corporate events, Christmas events – that will be a success for many of these properties. ”
A summer uptick
The return of tourism last summer wasn’t as promising as expected, although some visitors saw a slight increase in visitor numbers. In Italy, hotel stays increased in June, while in Spain hotel reservations increased slightly in July and August despite quarantine restrictions for travelers from the UK and Germany.
“It wasn’t a great summer by any means,” said Magnuson. “Business travel had been largely restricted, there was a certain amount of domestic tourism. It wasn’t a significant impact, but one that was welcomed by both travelers and industry. ”
Two weeks ago, on October 22nd, Great Britain and Germany lifted the restrictions on the Spanish Canary Islands and agreed on a long-awaited “travel corridor”. The Canary Islands forecast a recovery of between 40 and 50 percent of last year’s winter tourism activity in the coming months, and a new campaign had promised the “warmest reception ever”. The islands are now off the table for the UK – although RyanAir reported in its latest call to win that it had received 28,000 bookings on the first day of the Canary Islands reopening – UK and 25,000 bookings on the second day, proving a pent-up demand – while remaining open German travelers facing an easier lockdown than their UK counterparts.
Since resuming operations after the first wave of pandemics in Europe, TUI has served 1.4 million customers who went on vacation from mid-June to August.
A steady fall in the fall
According to Skift’s most recent report on the Recovery Index, Europe showed a steady decline in performance and traveler demand in September as Covid cases increased across the region, erasing a slight pre-summer rebound.
Hotel bookings in Spain fell 78 percent in September compared to the previous year. In Bruges, a travel destination that once hosted eight million visitors a year, bookings for September and October were a dismal 10 percent. New data from trivago also shows a sharp decline in French traveler interest since the new lockdown, while the UK accommodation sector is likely to suffer, as over 30 percent of UK travelers focused on instant travel in October. In its earnings report for the third quarter, the Expedia Group noted a “rockier” recovery for hotels on the European side compared to a more stable, improving North American market.
In contrast to its neighbors, Germany recorded growth of 8.2 percent in September, thanks not to tourism but to manufacturing. This success was short-lived as the economy contracted again in October, along with other EU destinations such as France and Italy announced as lockdowns. “[W]As the lockdown measures tighten, it will become increasingly difficult to see how the eurozone economy will not slide back into decline, “said Chris Williamson, chief economist at IHS Markit.
Airlines have hit a wall too – especially in Europe
Alexander de Juniac, general manager and CEO of the global aviation trading group IATA, noted this week that the aviation industry’s recovery has “hit a wall” between virus resurgence and government-imposed quarantines with no “global testing regime”. Europe was the only region where traffic decreased in September compared to August. Eurocontrol predicts that even if a vaccine were widespread by summer 2021, air travel would not return to 2019 levels until 2024.
This new round of bans is expected to have a negative impact on European travel to the Caribbean, as destinations like Grenada reopened borders with the UK in early October and flights from Virgin Atlantic Airways and British Airways resumed.
Hope in the midst of an uncertain winter
The resurgence of the pandemic will continue to prevent a recovery in European tourism – a critical part of the economy for the 23 EU countries, which account for 11 percent of GDP and 27 million jobs. At the center of this puzzle, however, is not just one raging virus, governments are resorting to a stop-and-start scenario of quarantines when a vaccine is not in place, as well as an ever-changing set of restrictions that are each specific to their goal that travelers may find it difficult to sort out by themselves.
“The problem is that everything is different” Head of media relations at TUI Kuzey Esener told Skift. “We have total travel bans in the UK and Sweden. In Germany we have travel warnings and we have certain corridors that are open. The same applies to the Netherlands and Belgium, different restrictions and rules in the different markets. ”
This alarming second wave of Covid in Europe may or may not subside in time for a “normal” Christmas holiday season, but it is clear that any chance of regional tourism recovery for the coming winter is bleak – especially for the hospitality and airline industries .
Even so, there is optimism that once the virus is under control, travelers will return. “In general we are very optimistic because you see when a destination reopens that bookings come in and people really want to travel,” said Esener from TUI. “And we can see that with our bookings for the coming year for next summer 2021. For the holiday season we have to wait and see what happens, but we also expect people to want to travel again.”
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