Europe’s tourism-dependent economy is being hard hit by the lack of some 15 million US tourists this summer. This due to the ongoing travel ban dished up by the EU last week. It’s already hurting, with billions of dollars in losses predicted. Particularly in the countries who rely most heavily on them: France, Italy, Germany and Spain. But across the EU, the economic ripples are being felt.
US Is Europe’s No. 1 Long-Haul Tourism Market
“Tourism contributes 10% to EU GDP and creates jobs for 26 million people,” notes the European Union Tourism Trends report.
Europe is the world’s leading tourist destination, it says. The 538 million foreign arrivals in 2017 represents a 40% share of international tourism (an 8% hike from 2016). Of these, Americans accounted for nearly 18 million travelers according to Skift. This includes those who were just passing through it notes, nonetheless a 12% year-on-year hike. (An upward trend which was predicted to continue, until Covid arrived).
The U.S. is “Europe’s main long-haul inbound market, in terms of the number of tourist arrivals and tourist spending,” says the European Commission, which recommended the ban continue. “The United States remains the undisputed top source market outside the EU,” it concludes.
- 25% of all U.S. residents’ overseas trips
- 35% of U.S. residents’ leisure and VFR trips
- 43% of U.S. residents’ trips for MICE travel
All that revenue is going to be sorely missed.
Italy Praying For End Of Ban In Time To Salvage Summer
In Italy, 13% of GDP stems from tourism. “Travelers from the United States are the non-European tourists who appreciate Italy the most, with 12.4 million overnight stays in the summer,” reported Agence France Presse.
The American tourist drought is set to cost the industry billions.
This summer, that will translate into “a loss of €1.8 billion for Made in Italy tourism,” says national farmers’ union, Coldiretti. The unprecedented phenomenon of “non-arrivals” from the U.S. and China is contributing to a “disheartening situation”.
“In June, the national tourism balance was down 10 million in Italian and foreign tourists with a devastating impact on the hospitality and restaurant sectors, from hotels to agriturismo, bars, restaurants and pizzerias.”
The gap will not be filled by domestic tourism, the union says. Only 34 million Italians so far indicate they will go on vacation for a few days this summer, down 13% from last year.
“For years, American tourism has been the lifeblood of Rome, Florence and Venice in particular,” says Bernabò Bocca, President of the Federal Hotel Association, Federalberghi. “A huge amount of damage has already been done for them in particular. And that’s without taking into account the ban on other big-spending tourists such as Russia and Brazil.”
Hopes for a turnaround, ahead of a review of the EU ban towards mid-July, depend on U.S. success stemming the virus spread.
The same scenario meanwhile is being played out across Europe, on a continent deprived of American travelers.
Europe’s umbrella tourism association, Hotrec Hospitality says the continent, in terms of international tourism receipts (€336,5 billion) is second in the world after the Asia Pacific (€377 billion), and ahead of North America (€214,9 billion).
“The hospitality sector is one of the key drivers of the European economy, and together with tourism the 3rd largest socio-economic activity in the EU.”
Finance sector aside it says, one in ten European businesses belongs to the tourism industries. “The hospitality sector directly employs 80% of the total EU tourism workforce, and counts all together 2 million enterprises.” American tourists are vital to their prosperity.
France Missing Some Five Million American Tourists
“Forbidden To Travel to Europe, Americans Will Be Greatly Missed By Tourism,” declared a Europe 1 radio headline.
Of 89 million foreign tourists in France each year, Americans represent about 8% of them says the French government. The number has risen sharply since 2015 due to a favorable exchange rate. Tourism represents 9.7 percent% of French GDP. 30% of that comes from international visitors.
The Cost To European Powerhouse Economy Germany
German and France ranked third and fifth in the world respectively in 2018 in terms of international tourism expenditure. For Germany it was around $94 billion. In France $48 billion.
Americans represent over 6 million of 37 million foreign tourists to the country, according to the website Deutschland.de. They contribute several billion to the tourism and catering industries, from the total €40 billion spent on trips to Germany. So again their absence is set to take a toll.
In Spain, 12% of GDP owes to tourism, which is the “locomotive” of the national economy says Madrid based El Independiente newspaper. About 3.2 million U.S. visitors went there last year, and that number is surging shows data from the National Statistics Institute. Or was, until Covid hit. In April alone, tourism expenditure dipped by about €10 billion due to a 7 million drop in international tourists.
In Switzerland too, where U.S. visitors contributed the biggest uptick in growing demand and overnight stays in 2019, their absence is now contributing significantly to the estimated CHF 9 billion losses to Swiss tourism in the three months of May to June.