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Euronews debates: When will we travel again?

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When will we travel again?
When will we travel again?   -   Copyright  euronews
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After more than a year of Covid lockdowns, many of us are dreaming of getting away on holiday.

The rollout of vaccines in Europe and beyond is fuelling hopes that travel and tourism can take off again soon, satisfying all that pent-up demand. But with so many questions remaining over the pandemic, exactly how soon that will be remains uncertain.

For an industry devasted by the health crisis, and all the economic fallout that brings, the restart will not come soon enough. But how can travel resume safely?

Is this summer a reality for European and international tourism? Or will the focus be on making the most of domestic markets, travelling closer home?

What role will the vaccines and testing play in the rebound?

Euronews put these questions and more to a panel of top industry representatives on Thursday 8 April 2021 at 15:00 CEST (you can watch the full debate in the video player above).

Managing Director, EMEA, Tourism Economics
David GoodgerManaging Director, EMEA, Tourism Economics
President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council
Gloria Guevara ManzoPresident & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council
Marketing & Promotion Director, Agenzia Nationale del Turismo (ENIT, Italy)
Maria Elena RossiMarketing & Promotion Director, Agenzia Nationale del Turismo (ENIT, Italy)
CEO, Brand USA
Chris L. ThompsonCEO, Brand USA
Senior Director, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Andrew Van Der FeltzSenior Director, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry?

The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector has been "devastating" said Gloria Guevara Manzo, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

While tourism represented 10.4% of the global economy in 2019, the sector's contribution shrank to 5.5% in 2020.

The industry, which contributes to one-tenth of employment on the planet, also lost 62 million jobs globally due to the pandemic.

"It's just the worst crisis. It is 18 times the financial crisis, that is the size of the impact,” Guevara Manzo told Euronews Debates.

On a more positive note, Chris L. Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, said that while the tourism industry was hit "the hardest and the quickest", it would also be fast to recover.

It was hit the hardest and the quickest, but once we're on top of the pandemic, once we can travel again, I do believe that the hospitality industry will bring us back to jobs quicker than any other sector.
Chris L. Thompson, CEO, Brand USA

When will international travel resume?

All panellists agreed that domestic travel would resume first, playing a vital role in the months to come.

Maria Elena Rossi, Marketing and Promotion Director at Agenzia Nationale del Turismo (ENIT) in Italy said domestic travel would provide a lifeline to the country's economy this summer, as it did last year.

“Already before COVID, domestic travel represented 50% of our industry and so we do believe in this respect that domestic travel will be supporting the economy as much as possible,” Rossi told the panel.

Thompson emphasised the key role of domestic tourism in international destination branding.

"The very first thing that we have to do is to prove that we can bring our domestic tourism industry back so that our friends and visitors from around the world can actually see us enjoying the diversity of geography and experiences that the US has," he said.

But in the medium and long run, international travel will be key to ensure the sector's full recovery, said David Goodger, Managing Director, EMEA, Tourism Economics.

International travel does account for around 30% of nights and it accounts for an even higher proportion of spending because international travellers spend more.
David Goodger
Managing Director, EMEA, Tourism Economics.

Forecasts suggest that international travel will not recover its 2019 levels until 2024, compared to 2022 for domestic travel, Goodger said.

The good news is, there is an appetite for international travel. According to a Euronews online poll, 82.8% of respondents said they were willing to go on holiday abroad this summer if it was allowed.

What role will vaccines and testing play?

Industry leaders were adamant that clear rules for mobility were needed for international travel to resume.

"What’s a big game-changer here is certainty. If we can have clear rules or clear mobility protocols that would allow resuming international travel, that is going to make a big difference," said Guevara Manzo.

In the EU,"the green digital certificate is exactly what we need in order to have clear rules for people to move," Guevara Manzo went on.

The European Commission proposed to create the pass last month to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will serve as an assurance that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

But vaccination alone is not the answer, considering the limited supply of shots. The sector will thus have to rely on a combination of vaccines, testing and immunity certificates to return to some kind of normality in the months to come, Guevara Manzo said.

That should not be a requirement to travel, but we should take advantage of the great job of many countries on the vaccination rollout and complement that with testing for the ones that have not been vaccinated.
Gloria Guevara Manzo
President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council

How can industry actors adapt?

As they look to win back lost revenues, industry actors will need to adapt towards greater flexibility for the consumer, panellists said.

During the first wave of the pandemic, many European airlines came under fire after refusing to provide refunds to customers whose flights were cancelled due to coronavirus in contravention of EU regulations.

Andrew Van Der Feltz, Senior Director of Business Development at Expedia Group Media Solutions,highlighted the crucial importance of flexibility in terms of insurance cover and a full refund to build back trust with the consumer in uncertain times.

The current period also offers opportunities for branding and communications with consumers, Van der Feltz noted.

This interim period, before all these borders start opening up, is a perfect moment to get content in front of consumers who perhaps were thinking about one destination or one city within a destination.
Andrew Van Der Feltz
Senior Director of Business Development at Expedia Group Media

Will travel after COVID-19 be more sustainable?

Panellists discussed the emergence of the conscious traveller post-Covid -- individuals who are keen to have unique and authentic experiences while making a positive mark on the planet.

With volumes down in the context of the pandemic, the focus on quality over mass tourism will be even greater, Rossi noted.

The volumes will come back but in the meantime, let's work on value and let's work on sustainability, on community-building.
Maria Elena Rossi
Marketing and Promotion Director; Agenzia Nationale del Turismo (ENIT), Italy

Venice, for instance, has developed a new visitor management policy to reduce the impact of mass tourism, Rossi said.

As tourists seek to avoid overcrowded cities, these destinations will need to "develop more products" and "new experiences," Guevara Manzo recommended.