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Coronavirus fears leave European tourist sites worried about future

European countries that rely on tourism to keep their economies afloat are looking for ways to kick-start the industry even as worries about the novel coronavirus seem destined to keep a fair number of holidaymakers home this year.

Athens, 30 April 2020 (dpa/MIA) — European countries that rely on tourism to keep their economies afloat are looking for ways to kick-start the industry even as worries about the novel coronavirus seem destined to keep a fair number of holidaymakers home this year.

Croatia, which is chairing the European Union until the end of June, is pushing the agenda to revive travel and bring guests to its coast.

Proposals under discussion include creating a document identifying those who have recovered from COVID-19 and making use of dedicated travel corridors that would employ safety protocols to allow trips between designated points.

Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said that an EU-wide protocol is needed on travel and added that bilateral agreements were also possible.

Croatian media have referred to the corridors—by road, rail or air—as a potential “savior” of the season.

They note that, if the people who want to travel to the Aegean can’t get there, the only ones who will be able to make the trip will be Croatians, many of whom have already taken an economic beating.

“If countries do not decide on whether and how people will be able to travel, then we can simply stop talking about tourism,” Christos Pilatakis, manager of a hotel on Rhodes, told dpa by phone.

Similarly, Greece is inviting tourists to visit and is scrambling with European partners to find both a “safe and responsible” way to travel, as well as an environment to protect guests and hosts from COVID-19.

“We want people to come to Greece this summer,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told BBC on Wednesday. “Of course we will take precautions in terms of the requirements before traveling, but also in the way people travel and the way they stay.”

“On sunbeds, etc., social-distancing rules will apply,” Theoharis said.

Greece is still recovering from a decade of a crippling financial crisis. Losses due to the pandemic, described as disastrous by hotel and tourist agency operators, may significantly set it back.

“This year is a catastrophe,” the head of the national tourist agencies association, Apostolos Tsilidis, told radio broadcaster Real FM.

Instead of cashing 22 billion euros (23.84 billion dollars) as it did in 2019, Greece is staring at that amount in losses.

Tourism and linked industries generate as much as 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and are the country’s largest employer.

Last week, Greek hotel operators estimated that 45,000 jobs have already been lost.

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