Interview - Eduardo Santander (ETC): Governments must support tourism firms with easy loans and relief

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Interview - Eduardo Santander (ETC): Governments must support tourism firms with easy loans and reliefRecommendation for easy access to facilities and additional tax relief for tourism businesses - The only path to recovery is for Europe to have a common approach to restarting tourism

Interview with Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission to Tornos News and Sofia Kontogianni:

Among others, Mr. Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission pointed out the need for European governments not to be sparing in providing financial support to workers and businesses in tourism and to extend the current state aid programs launched earlier this year.

According to Mr. Santander, the industry urgently needs quick and easy access to short- and medium-term loans to overcome the lack of liquidity, additional tax relief, protection of employment and loss of income, as well as support for the self-employed.

The Executive Director of the European Travel Commission notes the significant funding agreement reached in the EU to reduce the social and economic impact of the pandemic, adding that tourism should be one of the main beneficiaries of the program and should be anchored in the recovery plans of all EU Member States.

At the same time, Mr. Santander is in favor of a common European approach to the recovery of tourism next year, stressing that this is a necessary element and the only path to recovery.

The full interview has as follows:

Do you believe that it is possible to have a common European policy in 2021, regarding the opening of tourism? 

Yes, ETC believes it is indeed possible for Europe to have a common approach to restarting tourism next year. In fact, we would stress that it is both necessary and the only path to recovery. The European tourism sector simply cannot afford to have a similar fragmented picture with inconsistent and constantly changing national approaches next year.

Throughout this crisis, we have been advocating for increased public-private cooperation in response to these enormous challenges posed by COVID-19 to the industry, and have been urging European governments to better coordinate travel restrictions and safety measures to find smart solutions to facilitate travel before the vaccine is available and the crisis is behind us.

Last month the European Commission introduced a new recommendation on COVID-19 coordination among the EU Member States, which includes actions to facilitate travel such as the introduction of a common Passenger Locator Form, coordination of quarantine measures, and a common European testing protocol. Now it is up for EU Members States to find an agreement on these measures. A common testing protocol would minimize the disruption and fragmented system that we currently see across Europe and would also allow us to slowly restart of international travel.

We will continue advocating for more harmonization and coordination to secure travel first in Europe and then internationally.

Is there a plan of common measures in order to support tourism businesses in Europe?

As the European Union does not have major competencies in tourism policies, the recovery will mostly depend on national and regional authorities.

However, the EU is currently finalizing an agreement on a major recovery and resilience facility to reduce the economic and social impact of the pandemic and pave the way for sustainable recovery. In order to benefit from this funding opportunity, European governments are developing their recovery plans outlining national investment and reform agendas in line with the twin strategic objectives: digitalization and sustainability. We are advocating that tourism must be one of its main beneficiaries and should be anchored in the recovery plans of all EU Member States.

This facility offers an unprecedented opportunity to provide support to tourism and ensure that the sector helps to drive digital and green transitions, and thereby strengthens both economic and social resilience. These funding mechanisms could help tourism micro-enterprises and SMEs, family-run businesses to rebuild their activity in an innovative and environmentally friendly way with a clear focus on people: tourists, locals, and workers.

European governments should also prolong the ongoing state aid programs launched earlier this year and not spare financial support for workers and businesses. The industry now urgently needs fast and easy access to short- and medium-term loans to overcome liquidity shortages, fiscal relief, protection of workers from unemployment and loss of income as well as support for self-employed tourism stakeholders. 

When do you expect the recovery of European tourism?

Our latest report on European tourism trends & prospects for Q3 2020 found that a new surge in COVID-19 cases and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have halted European tourism recovery with international tourist arrivals to Europe down 68% halfway through the year relative to 2019.

A more uniform approach towards travel policies, quarantine measures and testing and tracing as well as the development of a vaccine and public confidence in the treatment will prove critical to the travel recovery profile.

The importance of domestic and intra-European travel cannot be understated in terms of the role it will play in the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months. In a welcome update, the latest forecasts predict a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022. European short-haul arrivals are also projected to bounce back faster by 2023, being helped by a swifter easing of travel restrictions and a lesser perceived risk compared to long-haul trips. Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.

 

 

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