The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has called for more consistent travel rules and advice from European countries on COVID-19 to counteract confusion among travelers and vacationers. Those traveling to Europe for the first time since travel restrictions began to ease have been faced with a bewildering array of different travel rules and recommendations, and in turn, each country on the continent is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic at different stages, thus delaying recovery. The uneven patchwork of COVID-19 national border restrictions and rules across a supposedly single Schengen area is an obvious deterrent to cross-border movement.
The return of the sector is urgently needed to regenerate the destinations and act as a catalyst for global economic recovery. WTTC research shows that a 2.7% increase in travellers would create or restore one million jobs in the sector. Governments, working together with appropriate coordinated measures, could stimulate an increase in travel of up to 27%, thus providing 10 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector.
Consumer confusion about travel regulations, such as the use of face masks, is evident. It is mandatory on public transport in some countries, such as France and Germany, but recommended only in Norway and Sweden. Meanwhile, in Malta, masks must be worn in all public places and in Poland they are not if people can respect physical distance. Medical advice, including that of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, is clear that the use of masks helps reduce the risk of transmission by up to 90%, protects the wearer and those around him, and restores a greater sense of normalcy to travellers.
However, the WTTC warns that unless European governments make a greater effort to align their policies, the fragile recovery will slow down, putting 16 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector at risk.
Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the WTTC, said: “The WTTC calls on all European heads of state to unite for the benefit of the millions of people who depend on this sector in Europe; both travelers and workers.
“It is urgent that governments learn from the past and take swift and effective action to coordinate and harmonize travel rules and border requirements so that there is consistency for all across Europe. Previous crises, including the financial crisis of 2008, show that when governments coordinate to harmonize policies, their leadership translates into faster recovery.
“We are encouraged to see that more and more travellers are seeking out holiday destinations in Europe following the relaxation of travel restrictions. Unfortunately, the lack of coordination between countries has created inconsistencies, which means that we are failing to rebuild the confidence of potential travellers. “Those who travel from one European country to another face a disconcerting difference in travel recommendations, which could seriously hamper the return of the travel and tourism industry.
“This climate of uncertainty for travellers is the last thing they need at a time when the Travel & Tourism sector is crying out for consistency. The restoration of consumer confidence during the most important season of the year in one of the world’s largest Travel & Tourism regions cannot be underestimated.
“The time to work together is now. The Travel & Tourism private sector wants to work in partnership with governments and destinations using the WTTC Safe Travel protocols, carefully designed to bring clarity and eliminate consumer confusion”.
The travel and tourism sector contributes 9.1% of Europe’s $2.018 billion GDP to the continent’s economy. Last year, according to the WTTC Travel & Tourism Economic Impact Report for 2020, the sector was responsible for 37.1 million jobs (9.7% of the total number of jobs in Europe).
The WTTC has recently published a ten-point Traveler’s Guide to Safe and Smooth Travel, which includes testing and contact tracking to ensure that people can enjoy Safe Travel in the “new normal”.
The well-being of travelers and the millions of people who work in the travel and tourism sector is central to the WTTC Safe Travel protocols, which are endorsed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).