Tourism managers in Germany are welcoming plans by Mediterranean and other European destinations to start carefully resuming business as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased and borders are re-opened.
The European Commission presented on Wednesday (May 13) a concept for EU states to permit cross-border travel again, for hotels to re-open if they meet strict hygiene and social distancing requirements, and for holidays to be permitted in areas where there is sufficient medical care capacity for guests if necessary. However, individual European countries will be responsible for deciding whether, when and how to implement these measures.
Foreign minister Heiko Maas said the global travel warning, which currently applies until June 15, could be gradually lifted, starting with European countries. “It will definitely be possible to lift the travel warning for Europe earlier than for other destinations – as long as the current positive trend in many countries remains constant,” he said. Maas plans to hold talks with EU colleagues in the next few days about easing travel restrictions.
However, Austria could be one of the first international destinations to benefit from an influx of German holidaymakers. The country plans to re-open its border with Germany on June 15, a fortnight after hotels and other accommodation will be allowed to resume business. Germany is a vital source market for Austria, generating well over a third of all overnight stays in the country in 2019.
Greece, for example, has named precise dates for its tourism relaunch. It will allow hotels and restaurants to re-open on June 1 and wants to welcome international tourists from July 1 onwards. The government wants the European Commission to decide on harmonised rules for all EU citizens but is prepared to strike bilateral deals with individual countries if necessary.
“The plan covers the entire trip,” praised Songül Göktas-Rosati, Germany chief of Turkey specialist Bentour Reisen. “Turkey has an advantage of course as large hotels can be operated profitably with low occupancy more easily than small ones,” she pointed out. Hicabi Ayhan, Head of Destination Turkey at FTI Group, added: “In the big hotels the working processes are often extremely well structured and thus easy to manage.” Peter Glade, commercial director of leisure airline Sun Express, predicted: “As soon as the first travellers return home and report how well the hygiene and distancing measures worked, then that will definitely motive other people to plan their holiday.”
However, TUI CEO Fritz Joussen is more optimistic. Explaining that the group had drawn up a ‘health check’ for all destinations and would only offer holidays “where it is safe”, he commented: “Majorca is definitely in first place. The hotels there have done their tests and are ready to start immediately and welcome guests.” Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Austria and Denmark are also well prepared, in his view.
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands are also gearing up to restart their tourism industries, with the small islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Graciosa first to ease their restrictions very gradually. Larger islands are looking further ahead. Gran Canaria plans to pump €5 million into the sector, including €3 million for marketing activities, €1 million to support events, and €1 million in flight subsidies. Tenerife is working on a new tourism development plan with specific measures for action, including better infrastructure and sustainable tourism.