BRINGING BACK FREEDOM IS ESSENTIAL TO A EUROPEAN TOURISM RECOVERY
An ITB Panel Discussion during ITB Berlin NOW looked at the recovery in Europe and analyses which market (domestic vs. international) could help a quick “bounce back”. The panel found that domestic and neighbouring tourism should be the engine to the recovery in 2021.
All European countries dream to be able to welcome tourists as quickly as possible. There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel, although this light may still seem to be far away. A panel discussion shared the opinion of two European experts: Arturo Ortiz Arduan, Director of the Spanish Tourist Board TurEspaña in Berlin and Norbert Kettner, Managing Director of Vienna Tourist Board. Debates were moderated by Dr Bettina Bunge, Managing Director and CEO of Schlewig Holstein Tourism Board and Convention Bureau.
Both panelists felt very shocked and even depressed that tourism could be used as a weapon for nationalist feelings by some politicians. “This blame game took us to nowhere,” admitted Norbert Kettner in Vienna. This contributed to even further block free movements among European citizens. And the task is definitely to bring back this freedom across the continent again.
Both destinations have a large exposure to international travel, particularly from the rest of the European continent. Vienna, for example, had close to 83% of all overnights generated by international travellers. For Norbert Kettner, all the positive aspects generated by tourism in Vienna turned negative due to the pandemic; starting, of course, with this very high percentage of international guests.
“In contrary to large countries such as Spain, our domestic market is rather small and cannot balance for the loss of international travellers. This is particularly true for the convention market. The domestic market is of course very important in the recovery phase, but it will never make-up for the loss of the international one,” he explained.
Domestic markets will not make up for the loss of international travellers
“Domestic tourism benefited of course from the lockdown, as many travellers could only escape in their their own country. This contributed for the trade to realise that national travellers were also an opportunity for the travel industry,” said TurEspaña’s Arturo Ortiz Arduan.
“Looking at the future, vaccination will likely change the roots of the recovery as well as the speed of it,” stressed Arduan, adding, “However, we need to take a European view to the recovery and need to find back our emotional ties with the rest of our European neighbours.”
Kettler agreed. “We need to rebuild Europe. This is where our strength is. We tended in the past to look a lot at overseas markets. But looking at our neighbours will be the first step into our full recovery. I am afraid that China and the US will first stimulate their own market in a very dogmatic way. We should concentrate at looking again at our European roots, otherwise, we will not survive economically,” he said.
“We are looking hard at a ‘certificate’ now to relaunch the economic machine that tourism generates. Considering Europe as a single block, Spain has been extremely supportive for a harmonised reopening and for the introduction of a certificate. This will now come and will certainly contribute to a quick return of our neighbours over the summer,” said Arduan.
“We also need to develop new concepts for the perception of Europe among Europeans themselves. I feel that the chaotic situation in pandemic management deeply tarnished the image of the continent,” added Kettner.
Both panelists felt that all European countries should now concentrate on the future… a bright future, of course.