Despite high levels of vaccination in many European countries and the stimulation of the tourism industry during the summer months, tourism activity is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
Successful vaccination programs should allow for further easing of travel restrictions and travel facilitation in 2022. However, full recovery will take longer, according to the latest edition of the European Commission’s European Tourism Travel Trends and Prospects, in which tracks the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The recovery of European tourism seems to be underway, but there is still a long way to go,” Jennifer Aiduch of the European Commission’s executive body for travel was quoted as saying by the Brussels Times.
“Restoring travel volumes, easing restrictions on non-EU markets, and recognizing COVID-19 vaccines that are not recognized by the EMA are ways in which the recovery of tourism can be further accelerated,” she added.
The report notes that the creation of the EU digital vaccination certificate against COVID-19, introduced in early July to facilitate travel within the European Union, is essential to ensure safe travel in the region and helps to simplify the process of cross-border travel. As a result, all reported European destinations are enjoying higher hotel occupancy rates this summer than in 2020, based on July-September data.
But by the end of 2021, which until now was considered a more positive year for the sector, international tourist arrivals in Europe are still expected to be 60% lower than in 2019. Even during the peak summer months, in which showed a relative improvement mainly due to the demand for domestic air transport, the arrivals of European tourists were still 77% less than in 2019.
At the same time, overseas travel is expected to take the longest time to recover, “which will weigh heavily on those destinations that are particularly dependent on long-distance travel markets.” For example, US arrivals in Europe remain 90% below 2019 levels for one-third of reported destinations, although many countries are easing restrictions on the entry of vaccinated Americans.
Domestic travel activity is expected to slow slightly in the coming months, as concerns about the winter flu season and the increase in Covid-19 cases in Europe due to the growing Delta variant will lead to “more cautious travel behavior and potentially tightening restrictions “.
“As the winter months approach, it is imperative that Europe seeks to further restore freedom of movement through more comprehensive and coherent approaches to travel within and outside the EU,” said Luis Arauyo, President of the European Commission for travel.
The Commission has stated that the ever-changing restrictions and policies of COVID-19, the recurring epidemics and the confusion surrounding the colorful travel system in the EU, applied differently in different European destinations, will continue to affect destinations highly dependent on travel long distances.