Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Tourism - 18.06.2020

Governments at all levels move to support Europe’s tourist destinations
As the lockdown measures are lifted and borders reopened, Europeans may once again begin to plan holidays at home and abroad. For hundreds of millions of Europeans, tourism represents an opportunity to explore new places, discover new cultures and recharge their batteries. For millions of workers and many towns and regions, tourism also represents their basic livelihood.

The impact of the crisis has been particularly devastating for local economies reliant on tourism.* The case of Iceland is instructive: in tourism-dependent municipalities, the unemployment rate has risen to between 40 and 50%. Given that the economic crisis has also crippled local finances, these municipalities are hard-pressed to provide support to their businesses.

The OECD estimates in its impressive analysis of COVID’s impact on tourism, the industry faces a 60 to 80% decline in international tourism in 2020 alone. Given this unprecedented collapse, governments across Europe are encouraging their citizens to holiday in their own country or region, thus supporting their local businesses and cultural heritage.

Vouchers, local tourism campaigns and more

Several national governments – including Belgium Iceland, Serbia and Slovenia – are distributing tourism vouchers, paying for example for rail tickets or accommodation. Municipalities are also providing support insofar as their means allow. In Germany for example, restaurants are not being charged additional fees for using public spaces so as to enforce social distancing.

Regions are also taking action. The regional governments of Catalonia, Flanders and Scotland have launched campaigns encouraging their citizens to holiday in their home region. More generally, regions are seeking to adapt their tourism models to the COVID era. Andalusia is using big data to improve monitoring and forecasting, while the Canary Islands hope to become a pioneer in tourism safety protocols.

The European Commission last month issued guidelines for a coordinated and safe resumption of international travel and tourist activities. However, local governments’ attempts to tap into European funds to compensate the loss of income are often frustrated by the complexity and requirements of EU rules.

These problems highlight the need for a concerted approach. As the OECD points out, “more needs to be done in a coordinated way as tourism services are very interdependent.” Dialogue and consultation between levels of government remains essential.

* This information was compiled during a CEMR meeting with its associations on the future of tourism in the wake of COVID-19.
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