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Lawmakers, experts call for coordinated efforts in saving European tourism

(Xinhua)    08:48, September 24, 2020

BRUSSELS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Tourism industry in Europe and the world has suffered drastic losses this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and all relevant parties need to learn to coexist with coronavirus and take coordinated measures to minimize the damage, it was concluded from a video meeting organized by the Committee on Transport and Tourism of the European Parliament.

"The crisis gave the opportunity to many people to realize that tourism had a far greater economical and social importance than what was subjectively perceived by many," Dominique Riquet, Chair of the Transport and Tourism Committee, said in his opening remarks on Wednesday.

Unilateral actions from member states of the European Union (EU) in the absence of uniformed criteria had "extremely negative consequences" for many of the actors of the tourism industry, Riquet noted. "We need a real European tourism policy with a real budget."

Alessandra Priante, director of Regional Department for Europe at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), cited "scary" statistics on the suffering of tourism industry this year: About six million jobs in this sector have been lost in Europe, while bookings have suffered a 60 to 90 percent decline compared to last year.

Priante noted that tourism contributes ten percent of the EU's gross domestic products (GDP), and 2.4 million businesses are working in the industry -- 90 percent of which are small and medium-sized enterprises.

The United Nations is recognizing the importance of tourism for the building of a resilient society. We need to make sure we are following our two core values -- sustainability and innovation, said Priante.

Eurostat said earlier this month that tourism sector fell by 75 percent in the EU in June compared with February due to the pandemic. Among the detailed sectors within the sector, travel agencies and tour operators fell the most (minus 83.6 percent), followed by air transport (minus 73.8 percent), accommodation (minus 66.4 percent) and restaurants (minus 38.4 percent). However, a recovery was observed in June compared with April as restrictive public health measures started to be lifted and restaurants began to reopen.

In Italy, where tourism revenues account for around 15 percent of its GDP, analysts and observers expect tourists from China to play an over-sized role when the beleaguered sector starts to recover.

Gianfranco Lorenzo, the head of the research department for the Center for Touristic Studies, told Xinhua earlier this month that one reason for that is because, according to data from the Bank of Italy, Chinese travelers have a larger-than-average economic impact when measured on a per-capita basis.

He also noted that the number of Chinese travelers has increased at a faster rate than the sector as a whole and that the potential for growth was "almost unimaginable."

Globally, according to Lola Cardenas, Vice President in charge of government affairs at World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 121.1 million tourism jobs have been lost this year. By the end of this year, the numbers can grow to 197 million jobs "if we don't get the right support and if we don't take the right decisions," Cardenas told the video conference.

Cardenas proposed a path to recovery, which includes international coordination, implementation of common measures upon departure to and from risk areas, adoption of global health, hygiene and safety protocols, as well as continued government support.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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