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Tourism sector struggles to recover from a devastating year

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By Oleksandra Vakulina
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Tourism sector struggles to recover from a devastating year
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The end of year holidays are traditionally a time to reunite with loved ones and spend quality time together.

But this year many of us will stay at home, far from the usual festivities.

"I think people will be very reluctant to meet even the family,” says Swede Par Trehorning, who is retired. “Especially grandfathers and grandmothers to travel with them or to have dinner together. I think some people will be very worried as to whether it's worth the price of getting the disease."

This year the Covid 19 pandemic has turned travel and tourism upside down. Staying under lockdown made many of us realize how important travel is.

“The year 2020 was not only disruptive, but also devastating for many tourism and travel entrepreneurs,” says Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission.

“The whole thing which started as a Chinese outbreak and then came to Europe and then spread out to the rest of the world has had a huge impact for the industry, that was not running only smoothly, but was running on a very successful pattern, very revenue and profit-driven.”

Tourism losses estimated at €100 billion

In the European Union, tourism makes up 10% of GDP and creates jobs for 26 million people – through direct, indirect and induced effects on the economy – in particular for young people, women and people from a migrant background.

The aviation sector has shared the pain. The industry had its worst-ever crisis with the pandemic shaking it to the core. Most planes have been grounded until further notice and some of the busiest airports have suddenly become empty.

There are people that are losing their jobs, there are businesses shutting down, some forever
Eduardo Santander
Executive Director, European Travel Commission

The IATA estimates the net losses for the industry at €100 billion.

The air travel collapse puts the livelihoods of 46 million people at risk.

“There’s a dichotomy between health authorities and tourism authorities,” says Santander. “A day that passes for the health authorities - it is a day that they have won. They are doing more research, the vaccines are getting better and better, the population is getting that immunisation that they need. A day that passes on the contrary for the travel and tourism business - is a day we have lost. There are people that are losing their jobs, there are businesses shutting down, some forever.”

Airlines battered by COVID-19 are prepping for key roles in the mass vaccine rollout. It should provide an immediate boost for the sector - and may even be critical for its survival.