Hotel Metropole is one of the most iconic tourist hotspots in Brussels, and has been welcoming guests in its lavish rooms since 1895. But this hotel has also fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic, and risks being closed down following months of lockdown. This means 129 people are at risk of losing their jobs.
Unfortunately, this hotel is not the only one to be facing this fate, as the coming months will spell hardship for the global tourism sector.
“Today, we have to find a way to rescue the tourist industry, the hotel industry, at every level – European, national but also regional level,” said Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh, the general secretary of the Brussels Hotel Association. “The first measure and the most urgent is reinjecting liquidity into the treasuries, loans are not the answer.”
The tourism industry contributes 10% of GDP across Europe, providing direct and indirect employment to around 27 million people. Around three million businesses service this sector, most of them small and family businesses. The current global pandemic is wreaking havoc on this sector, with the estimated loss on a global level estimated to be between 275-400 billion euros, according to Sonya Gospodinova, an EU Commission spokesperson.
“For Europe restaurants and hotels would lose 50% of their revenues. The most impacted are the airlines and cruise operators, 90% and 70% of loss for tour operations and other travel agencies.”
According to estimates declared by the World Tourism Organisation, tourist traffic will be down 20-30% in 2020. The European Commission is working to action a “new Marshall Plan”, whereby EU funds will be used to save the tourist industry, as well as allocating money to this sector from the Recovery Fund.
“The best scenario is going to be if politicians relax the rules [and] make sure that the people who are at risk isolate,” says Tom Jenkins, the CEO of the European Tourism Association (ETOA).
However, no one can predict what life post Covid-19 outbreak will be like, and any action has to be relative and commensurate to the duration of the epidemic, as well as the possibility of a second wave of infections. There are still many unknowns.
While a special summit on tourism has been provisionally planned for later this year, tourism dependent EU countries like Greece, Spain and Malta need faster and more immediate measures in order to cut back some of their losses.