Europe sees cautious return of international travel

Intra-European holidays have resumed without mishap, but industry leaders remain cautious about the rate of tourism’s recovery.

Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, said: “So far, so good. We are not seeking a resumption of full operations. Nobody could expect that.

“[But] people are starting not only looking for a holiday, but booking. So this is good news.”

Outbound travel resumed to many European destinations in June and the Council of the European Union recommended member states open their borders to arrivals from some non-EU countries from July 1.

However, many states have yet to lift restrictions on travel.

Santander told a virtual Destination Summit hosted by the Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council and marketing agency Finn Partners: “Obviously, we are not expecting to have the numbers of 2019 or 2018. That is not going to happen.

“But we see people willing to go on holiday and this is good news because it is going to complement the help the EU and national governments have given businesses.”

However, Santander said: “Outbreaks here and there are not helping. People are looking at the media headlines, [deciding] if they are going to proceed with their bookings.”

Portugal opened its beaches to tourist on June 6 and Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism in Portugal, told the summit: “Everything is running smoothly. We evaluate everything on a daily basis, but so far so good.

“All the protocols are in place and the rules are quite clear. Our Infection rate has been low compared to other countries. [But] we knew we had to open very carefully.”

Marques expressed disappointment at the UK decision to exclude Portugal from the destinations to which UK citizens may travel without restrictions from Friday (July 10).

But she said: “We are in open dialogue with the UK and we believe the decision is going to be reviewed very soon.”

Santander agreed, saying: “I’m sure that in the next days or weeks they will find a solution and business will resume as normal.”

He said: “The reality is border controls are a national competence. The UK has very good diplomatic relations with Portugal. Historically, they have been partnering for centuries. I’m sure they are working on solutions.

“Both sides would like to see people flying because the flights are not only to go to Portugal on holiday, there are a lot of Portuguese living in the UK.”

However, Christopher Rodrigues, World Travel & Tourism Council ambassador and former chair of VisitBritain, said: “I’m as confused as everyone else [about the UK decision].

“The narrative is not consistent. The UK Foreign Office advice is different from the [UK] Department for Transport advice. One thing I’ve learned in my years in tourism is that the winners have joined up messaging.”

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