Frigiliana is a popular day trip for visitors to the seaside resorts of the Costa del Sol in southern spain. It has been voted the prettiest village in Spain several times.

Numbers are hard to keep a hold of in the world looking to rebound from coronavirus. A million here, a billion there. Sometimes a visual is the best way to keep numbers in check, to remind people of just what one of those numbers represents.

Here’s a clip of Coldplay in Sao Paulo, playing a stadium full of happy people.

Other than the band’s uniquely wonderful capabilities, what’s astounding in this clip is how many people that gig represents. It’s not a million, or a billion, but a mere 46,563 fans. It looks like an awful lot, to me.

So when Europe this week wrote its official paper detailing covid-19 support recommendations for the travel industry, one figure stood out in my mind – 27,000,000 people – that’s how many in Europe are employed in the tourism sector. To put that number into perspective, it’s that entire Coldplay crowd…579 times. It’s 579 stadiums full of people.

Tourism represents between 10-11% of Europe’s overall GDP and provides 12% of the overall employment in Europe. That’s more than 1 in 10 people anywhere you look, on average, and its divided by more than 3,000,000 businesses.

Right now, there’s hardly a single one which is able to make ends meet, or experiencing business as usual.

a city street with cars and buildings at nightThe Way Forward

With Greece and Austria leading the way, countries throughout Europe are meeting to create multilateral or bilateral agreements to safely and securely open travel, without invalidating the sacrifices made in weeks of lock down.

Measures are expected to ease on Monday in Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, The Netherlands, UK and Ukraine, signalling the first step in how tourism related businesses may be able to safely reopen.

Greece is among the countries asking leaders to create Europe wide standards of social distancing and border safety measures to help unify and create a safer environment for travel. Italy’s tourism minister denies the country ever stated international travel wouldn’t return until 2021, and says he’s working actively to create measures to open up doors sooner, rather than later.

Spain, thus far has taken a position that previous efforts can’t be risked with a sudden influx of tourism, despite massive support for reopening of travel in the Spanish Islands. France, which continues easing restrictions is also plotting the way forward to some form of travel by late summer, particularly in Nice.

Greece currently make all international arrivals declare their seat number, and takes a cheek swab upon arrival. Visitors are then able to carry onto their hotels, and results are confirmed within 12 hours. With seat chart information, the government is able to notify any who were in close contact, in near immediate time.

But going forward, the government seeks standardized testing before being allowed to board a plane, with identical measures across Europe. Prime Minster Kyriakos Mitsotakis hopes Europe will adapt a test which potential visitors must pass, displaying either antibodies to covid-19, or a negative result.

With millions of jobs and livelihoods on the line, let’s hope a reasonable solution is found sometime soon. Ideally, in time for a late summer holiday. Greece plans to open to international visitors in July.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. EU countries are much more reliant than the US on VAT as a percentage of national budgets. So the longer this lasts the longer we will have austerity 2.0 which will further increase pressure to reopen to international tourism.

  2. I think it’s wonderful that countries are figuring out ways to make travel viable again. Any thoughts on how realistic it is to get enough testing to make this work is by this Summer?

    1. I think, at least in my mind, all hope starts with Greece. If they come out of the gates and stave off huge concerns in July, people will be looking to adapt and learn from their moves by August, September etc.

    2. UK resident, and I’ve booked a holiday to Mykonos on 20 July…PRAYING that it happens because being trapped in the UK much longer may cause lasting mental damage (have you seen BoJo perform??)

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