Dr. Markus Heller moderated the four-hour virtual event with top-class panellists representing the major European tourism organisations. The 19th European Tourism Forum was broadcast live on the Internet from Berlin on 23 October 2020 at the invitation of Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism.
Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of WTTC, outlined the current situation of the tourism industry in her keynote. By the end of 2020, the president of WTTC predicted a global loss of 5,543 billion US dollars for the travel sector. According to Ms. Guevara, the focus must be on the following aspects for a faster recovery: A coordinated international approach, the (further) development of seamless travel, global health, hygiene and safety protocols and common standards, continued government support as well as the use of new technologies.
In a high-level opening panel on political backing for post-lockdown efforts to stabilise and reorient the tourism sector, Dr. Markus Heller discussed the current dramatic situation of tourism with Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, member of European Parliament TRAN Committee and of the Tourism Steering Group, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO, Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism and for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Dr. Michael Frenzel, President of BTW. In the second quarter, economic output in Europe has suffered the worst slump in 25 years, due to the Corona crisis. Companies operating in tourism are still particularly affected. As a result of the crisis, a large number of bankruptcies are expected.
In the second session of the event, Markus Heller interviewed four representatives of the tourism industry in the fields of travel agencies and tour operators (Eric Drésin, Secretary General ECTAA), hospitality (Marie Audren, Director General HOTREC), cruise (Michael Thamm, Chairman CLIA Europe) and destination marketing (Eduardo Santander, CEO/ Executive Director ETC and Chairman TOURISM MANIFESTO). The experts explained the measures taken to date by the respective industries to demonstrate guests, that despite the uncertainty, safe travel is possible when adhering to all hygiene standards.
According to all interviewees, the “restart” of tourism is impaired by erratic travel rules and regulations, which lead to considerable uncertainty among guests. This calls for a consistent framework from politics, as stated by the industry representatives.
In the final panel of the digital event, Dr. Heller exchanged views with the panellists on the central theme “Recovery and prospects for European tourism”. Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Director Sustainable Development of Tourism Programme, UNWTO, Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit Tourism, Textiles and Creative Industry, European Commission, Jane Stacey, Head of Tourism Unit, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, OECD, and Rudolf Tucek, Managing Director, CUBE Software & Hotel Development GmbH, discussed, among other things, the long-term perspective of tourism.
During the event, four key aspects for the post-Corona period turned out to be particularly relevant for tourism:
Tourism will continue to gain in importance over the next 30 years (also in terms of an overall economic view), and visitor arrivals will continue to increase strongly in the long term despite the crisis. In addition, forms and products of tourism will be subject to comprehensive change in terms of sustainability and digitalization.
Europe is currently setting the course to strengthen the resilience of tourism, because tourism will not be spared from crises in the future either and therefore must adjust to them. Hence, the development of resilience in the tourism industry is necessary to be able to cope with small and large crises in the best possible way. Furthermore, the industry must embrace transformation and change and consider them a “window of opportunity”.
After the crisis, tourism will occupy an even greater place in people’s lives. The current COVID-19 pandemic shows what social distancing and the absence of travel and common experiences mean for personal life. At the same time, the worlds of work and leisure are becoming increasingly blurred and the cross-sectional function of the tourism ecosystem will continue to gain in importance.
An evidence-based analysis of tourism development will become even more relevant in the future. Measurements and statistics must be collected more precisely, and forecasts, assessments and decisions have to be data-driven.
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