EU tourism sector during the coronavirus crisis

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Series Details PE 652.008
Publication Date July 2020
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Tourism in the European Union (EU) is one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, with some parts of the sector and some regions more affected than others. Most tourist facilities were closed during the peak of the crisis, and events cancelled or postponed. Tourism businesses are also among the last to resume activities, and even if they do, they still have to apply strict health protocols and containment measures, meaning that they can operate only at restricted capacity. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that tourism will decline 60-80 % this year, depending on the length of the health crisis and on the pace of recovery.

While aviation, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants are among the most affected, cycle tourism is becoming more popular during the recovery phase. An increasing number of tourists prefer domestic destinations, areas of natural value, active travel and avoiding overcrowded destinations, at least in the short-term. However, some changes might become permanent, such as the rise in purchasing tourism services online or the greater attention paid to hygiene and healthy living.

At the peak of the pandemic, most EU countries introduced temporary border controls and measures restricting free movement across the EU. However, the strictness and timeline of these measures varied greatly from one country to another. Recently, many EU destinations have started to lift national confinement and quarantine measures, including restrictions on travel. By 15 June 2020, most EU countries had opened their borders to EU travellers and had begun to plan to open borders to travellers from certain third countries as of 1 July 2020.

The EU has acted to support the tourism sector, whether by temporarily changing EU rules, helping to interpret current rules or by providing much-needed financial support. The European Commission helped to repatriate EU travellers. On 13 May 2020, the Commission adopted a comprehensive package of non-legislative measures for the tourism and transport sector, with the aim of helping EU countries to gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism and transport businesses to reopen. The Council and the European Parliament have, in general, welcomed the package, while making further suggestions on how to help the sector.

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