Covid-19: EU support for the tourism industry 


Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Read more on how the EU is protecting businesses, workers and passengers.

Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have decimated the tourism industry, a major player in the EU's economy. Revenue is expected to drop 50% for hotels and restaurants, 70% for tour operators and travel agencies and 90% for cruises and airlines. Europe accounts for half of the world's tourist arrivals and the situation is particularly hard for European countries that are dependent on tourism, such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.

On 19 June, Parliament voted on a resolution on transport and tourism in 2020 requesting further action to support small and medium-sized enterprises hit by the crisis and funding to help the sector. MEPs said that the crisis should be considered as an opportunity to modernise tourism in the EU by making it environmentally friendly and socially responsible.

Many travellers have struggled to return home, while tourism businesses are facing severe liquidity issues, as there are very few new bookings and a large number of claims for refunds following cancellations. Air carriers particularly are under unprecedented pressure.

22.6 million  ; Number of people working directly or indirectly in the EU's tourism sector (2019)

Check out what the EU is doing to help Europe’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

Supporting the tourism industry through the crisis

Businesses and workers from the tourism sector already benefit from EU measures taken in response to the Covid-19 crisis, including liquidity support, fiscal relief and an easing of state aid rules, as well as the temporary suspension of EU rules on airports slots to avoid empty flights.

To protect travellers, the EU has updated the guidelines on passenger rights and the package travel directive. It has also facilitated the repatriation of tens of thousands of Europeans stranded abroad, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. EU measures to support the tourism industry complement and reinforce measures taken at national level.

On 13 May, the European Commission published specific guidelines and recommendations on tourism and transport to help EU countries gradually lift travel restrictions, restore transport services and reopen tourism businesses.

The Commission proposed on 4 September that EU countries coordinate their measures restricting free movement during the pandemic. The aim is to reduce uncertainty for travellers and businesses resulting from a wide range of diverging national rules.

The proposal includes common criteria and thresholds for introducing restriction measures, assessing the risks across the EU and dealing with travellers coming from high-risk zones. If countries decide to introduce restrictions, they should inform the public in a clear and timely manner.

In a resolution passed on 17 September, Parliament supported the Commission’s proposal to coordinate travel restrictions and called for harmonising health assessments and other measures.

Find out more on what the EU is doing to fight the coronavirus

The EU's tourism sector (2019) 
  • Accounts for 9.5% of the EU's gross domestic products 
  • Provides 11.2% of employment in the EU 
  • Is composed of nearly three million businesses, 90% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises 

Parliament asks for more action to save the tourism industry

The EU should develop a prevention and management mechanism to protect workers and companies in the tourism sector and ensure passenger safety, MEPs said in a resolution adopted on 17 April.

Parliament’s transport and tourism committee has been insisting since March on a strong and coordinated EU action to overcome the crisis. Committee chair Karima Delli welcomed the Commission’s package on tourism and transport of 13 May:“It is crucial to reassure citizens that tourism and travelling will be possible and safe this year. We should use this crisis to redesign tourism across the EU.”

On 15 May, Parliament approved relief measures for the transport sector to minimise the effects of the pandemic on airlines, railways, road and shipping companies.

In a joint statement issued on 23 September, members of Parliament’s tourism task force insisted on urgent concrete action from the Commission and EU countries to save the sector from collapse, including EU-level coordination on health and travel restrictions as well as direct and dedicated financial support.

Check out the timeline of EU action against Covid-19