The impact of COVID-19 on the world economy is huge. Closure of borders, restrictions on traveling, and dramatic reduction of commercial flights have led to an unprecedented drop in the number of tourists worldwide, nearly leading to a collapse of the tourism sector in many countries.
Tourism is considered to be a major world industry contributing to nearly USD 2.9 billion to the world economy. In 2019 alone, its total contribution when accounting for lodging, transport, attractions, travel companies, etc. surpasses USD 9.2 billion. For the past few years, Europe has seen the highest increase of tourists across the globe, leading it to become the most visited region in the world. Four European Union countries are among the world’s top 10 holiday destinations.
In the European Union, tourism is considered a key sector for the European economy with contributions to the economic, social, and environmental lives of Europeans. The EU’s tourism industry, i.e. providers of holidays and tourism services, is made up of 2.3 million businesses, primarily small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the backbone of the European Economy. In 2017, the EU tourism sector provided more than 12% of employment in the EU with over 13 million people employed in economic activities related to tourism; 8 million in the food and beverage industry and 2 million in the transport industry. Revenue of tourism in the EU is more than USD 878 billion and accounts for more than 37% of global tourism receipt and 10% of EU GDP.
To maintain its leading position in the tourist industry, the European Commission embarked on the implementation of a new political framework for tourism in Europe, establishing priority actions for the sector. It has also started to promote Europe using the phrase ‘Europe, the world’s No. 1 tourist destination’.
Source: European Environment Agency
Despite its importance as a source of income and jobs, tourism is considered one of the most polluting industries in the world, accounting for more than 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Comprehensive studies show that tourism’s footprint comprises of not only accommodation and leisure but also includes food, transport, clothing, and hospitality. It is noted that traveling leads to a dramatic increase in peoples’ carbon footprint while abroad compared to when at home. For instance, a tourist consumes 3 or 4 times more water per day than a permanent resident. Additionally, the impact of modes of transportation such as cars, airplanes, and cruise ships create higher CO2 emissions, and energy consumption for tourists can reach 3 times what an average resident consumes daily.
The European Union has long been calling for a sustainable form of tourism. Current bailouts made by European governments are centered on the restoration of the national economy and limiting the impact of COVID-19 on citizens lives. However, the current situation may be the ideal moment to support a shift in policies, creating a suitable environment to tackle the negative impact of mass tourism on the environment, and contributing to the reduction of gas emissions from the tourism industry.
Activity Rating: ** Standing Still
Some European countries are addressing the tourism industry in their COVID-19 recovery programs. For instance, France agreed to bail out the largest airline company in the country under conditions that the airline company would apply measures to limit its carbon emissions by limiting domestic flights. The European Union has yet to actively encourage member states to support tourism practices that address climate change as part of their COVID economic recovery programs.
Dear Mr. Janez Lenarcic,
European Commissioner for Crisis Management,
Climate Scorecard would like to express its deep concern regarding the EU’s effort in mobilizing resources towards a better management of the COVID-19 crisis, especially when it comes to economic recovery for the tourism sector. We would like to encourage the EU to define and implement strategies and policies that allow a better future for tourism and the climate.
With our respectful and best regards,
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard EU Manager Ibrahim Abdel-Ati
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