Christmas in Paris, or on the beach in the sunny Canary Islands? For would-be European travelers and holiday-goers, the answer increasingly is: not this year.
As COVID-19 once again surges throughout Europe, travelers across the continent are hunkering down close to home, dealing another devastating blow to the region’s crucial tourism sector, according to marketing services and research firm Skift.
Countries ranging from Italy to the United Kingdom are resorting to lockdown measures last seen in the spring, in a bid to rein in rapidly rising infection rates in the long-dreaded second wave of the virus.
And while the restrictions are theoretically slated to expire in early December, governments across the continent could easily extend the lockdowns and curfews into the holiday season if coronavirus infection rates continue to soar, Skift notes.
Overall, tourism accounts for 11 percent of the GDP of the 23 member nations of the European Union, accounting for 27 million jobs.
The first signs of trouble began to emerge in September, with Skift’s Recovery Index pointing to dropping traveler demand as COVID-19 cases began to climb again across Europe.
In Spain, hotel bookings plunged 78 percent in September, while in the historic city of Bruges in Belgium, bookings were just 10 percent of what they normally were for September and October.
However, things have gone from bad to worse over the past few weeks.
Not long after the U.K. and Germany lifted travel restrictions to Spain’s Canary Islands, a popular holiday travel spot, the U.K. was forced to reimpose restrictions as cases mounted.
Rising disappointment over what appears likely to be a disappointing travel and tourism holiday season in Europe follows a tepid summer that failed to meet expectations.
Further complicating matters – and confusing would-be holiday travelers – is a mix of lockdown regulations and restrictions, with each country’s rules somewhat different from the next.
“The problem is that it’s all different,” Kuzey Esener, head of media relations at TUI, a multinational tourism and travel company based in Germany, told Skift. “In the U.K. and in Sweden, we have complete travel bans. In Germany, we have travel warnings, and we have certain corridors that are open. Same goes for the Netherlands and Belgium: different restrictions and rules in place in the different markets.”