Tourism: a highly affected sector
In a debate with Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, MEPs insisted that the tourism sector needs more support through specific measures, funding, strengthened coordination at EU level and a tailor-made roadmap. The demand for a specific recovery plan and strategy for the sector came from all sides of the political spectrum.
The commissioner acknowledged that tourism was the first sector affected by the coronavirus and is likely to be the one to recover later. “We must prepare a strong response,” he said. “Tourism is our priority and we are trying to do as much as possible with the funds available.
Beyond providing security through short-term funding, Breton said tourism should be supported by long-term recovery plans, to be funded from the next long-term EU budget (2021-2027). The commissioner said he was in favour of an exclusive budget line “with the necessary depth and capacity for the sector to overcome the crisis”.
The commissioner also said the ultimate goal is to reform and reinvent the tourism sector and proposed holding a European tourism summit on sustainable tourism in the autumn.
Travel restrictions for the summer
Several MEPs called for clarity on travel and movement restrictions that could continue in the coming months, including possible bans on visiting beaches due to social distancing rules. The commissioner explained that security guarantees will be needed before restrictions are lifted. He said that work was underway to facilitate travel and hoped that everything would be clearer before the summer.
Asked about passenger rights and vouchers offered by companies when reservations are cancelled, the commissioner assured that these rights would be protected and recalled that member states can support tourism companies by providing them with liquidity, also to meet passenger reimbursement claims.
MEPs from the Tourism Group of the Transport and Tourism Committee called on the Commission to present a rescue plan for the sector that would ensure assistance at national and European level, through national compensation schemes and financial aid instruments, and establish a crisis management mechanism for the sector.
In the resolution adopted last week on the EU response to the pandemic, MEPs stressed that the transport and tourism sectors have been severely affected and suggested developing a prevention and management mechanism for the EU tourism sector to protect workers, assist businesses and ensure passenger safety.