The 21st of July was the turn of the European tourism sector to be discussed in the webinars on economic dynamisation that we at EURADA are organising. Although we can say that Covid-19 lockdowns have had an enormous impact on all economic activity, we must realise that the effect on the tourism has been at least 10 times higher than the average. This is an important matter when talking about a sector that accounts for 21.5% of all the people employed in the EU services sector (26 million jobs). For this reason, the coordinated actions of the regional and economic authorities of each region were key to reducing the damage dealt to small and medium-sized businesses so as to ensure the best position possible for the sector when the border restrictions were lifted again. For this event, we counted on the participation of three highly tourism-dependent areas as diverse as Malta, Ljubljana (Slovenia), and Attica (Greece).
Paul Baldachinno, the representative of the Maltese organisation Business First, exposed the situation of the island, moving from a full occupation position to zero flight arrivals in less than a week, which they saw not only as a threat for them but as an opportunity to renew the local sector as well. Since the first moment, they decided that their focus would be on getting prepared for the re-opening of borders. So, for this purpose they invested public resources in incentives for business and measures to palliate economic harm. In the first package of measures, aspects addressed included rent and electricity bill refunds, wage supplements, and business re-engineering consultancy to boost local employees’ skills. In such a way, they rescued employment and many businesses in the island country with a direct cash flow scheme.
Then, the floor was given to Lilijana Madjar of RRA LUR, the Regional Development Agency of Ljubljana, who gave a presentation on her city, the capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana represents 94% of overnight stays by tourists in the country, more than 6 million visitors in 2019, for a country in which tourism generates around 12% of GDP. Nevertheless, these numbers sharply decreased in the first half of 2020 with 52% less arrivals and 47% fewer overnight stays than during the same period the year before. Hence, the measures taken were addressed, as in the Maltese case, to two different targets. On the one hand, the jobs and the social situation of local workers and employers were targeted with measures such as emergency assistance for the self-employed, the improvement of liquidity for businesses, and so on; while on the other hand, the initiatives were aimed at boosting domestic tourism through measures including a voucher given to all residents to spend on tourism within Slovenia and preparing local touristic premises to be safe for travellers once the lockdown measures were lifted.
Finally came the turn of Petros Podaras from the Innovation Centre of Attica, the region which the capital city of Greece, Athens, belongs to. It accounts for as much as 40% of the country’s total population and 50% of national GDP. Petros underlined his presentation through an analysis of variations in airport traffic and the coastal transport, reflecting the dramatic drop in tourism in Greece. The country released a series of protocols and diagnostics that were gathered in a national restarting strategy. As of the 1st of July, they had improved their safety and security systems by means of a well-developed contact tracing strategy and official guidelines for hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services. Once the safety of travellers was ensured, they moved on to attracting foreign tourists with initiatives such as a virtual workshop organised by the China Chamber of Tourism, to increase the number of Chinese tourists, especially those with higher incomes and an interest in travelling off high season.