Tourism has “ceased to exist” as it was, job losses “could be monumental” and the industry’s recovery will depend on domestic and short-haul travel, the head of the European Travel Commission (ETC) has warned.

Eduardo Santander, ETC executive director, issued the warning as the commission published a quarterly report noting travel to Europe would fall by more than half this year on 2019.

The report, European Tourism: Trends & Prospects, notes: “Consumer activity is starting to pick up, with increased flight bookings for destinations such as Greece, Portugal and Spain for July and August.”

But it warns of “monumental” job losses in Europe’s tourism sector, ranging from 14 million to almost 30 million, and suggests: “Tourism as we knew it has ceased to exist.”

The report concludes recovery from the Covid-19 crisis is likely to be quicker and more stable in destinations that rely most on domestic and short-haul travellers.

It states: “Uncertainty dominates and the duration of pandemic restrictions will be key to determine the losses in the sector.

“The pace of recovery will vary and depend on the extent to which [destinations] rely on international source markets and the revival of consumer confidence.”

And it argues: “A sector traditionally characterised by human interactions will now have to provide the same intangible aspects through more touchless methods.”

The report notes of the first half of the year: “Croatia (-86%) and Cyprus (-78%) saw the biggest declines [in visitors], reflecting the sizeable losses of key source markets such as Italy and the UK.

Noting a recent rise in bookings to Greece, Portugal and Spain, the report suggests: “Leisure visitors account for the bulk of new tickets, but recovery has been stronger among travellers aiming to visit friends and relatives.”

It concludes: “The likelihood of a stable and quick recovery of demand is greater for destinations that rely more heavily on domestic and short-haul travellers [as] remaining international travel restrictions, uncertainty around transport availability [and] heightened risk aversion increase consumer preference for travelling closer to home.”

The ETC suggests Germany, Norway and Romania will prove the most resilient markets and warns Croatia, Montenegro and Iceland are at greater risk given much higher reliance on international demand.

Almost 45% of tourists across Europe are domestic visitors, while short-haul arrivals account for three in four (77%) visitors.

Santander said: “We have been talking for so long about sustainable growth, climate change, digitalisation and innovation, this is an opportunity to press the reset button.”