Europe's $849 billion annual tourist industry is taking a beating as visitors heed stay-at-home orders around the globe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thierry Breton, the European Union’s (EU) commissioner for internal market and services, said the 27-nation bloc is facing its most difficult challenge since it was founded in 1993, and stated that its nations should be a top priority for bailouts, the Associated Press reported.
“Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus, and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” Breton told a European Parliament committee via videolink on Tuesday (April 21).
International trade groups have told Breton that an estimated 275 and 400 billion euros ($300 to $435 billion) will be lost for the tourism and travel sector because of the coronavirus. When all of the data is in, Breton said he expects global travel to be off by nearly a third and that the EU’s tourism economy could take a hit of between 45 percent and 70 percent.
“The loss of earnings at [the] European level we are looking at for hotels and restaurants is a magnitude of at least 50 percent in terms of annual income,” Breton said on the call.
Europe is clearly the global leader in tourism with more than 600 million foreign tourists arriving in the region annually, according to Statista, the Germany-based online portal for statistics.
While Europe is not alone in facing vacant tourism destinations, Breton said the European market accounts for half of world tourism. He noted that the unprecedented climate can only be compared to the time of World War II.
The news service reported that the EU is preparing for a massive bailout to lift the nations. It could take 1.5 trillion euros (1.63 trillion dollars) to help the bloc’s worst-hit countries.
“I consider that tourism should benefit the most, more than 20 percent without a doubt,” Breton told the parliamentarians. “I certainly hope that we can start traveling again, despite the restrictions, and as soon as this summer.”
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro had his own take on the tourism disaster: “Venice is on its knees,″ he said.