- The European Union is ready to restore regional freedom of movement. However, in order to do so, Member States must first deal with the financial consequences of the pandemic, which include aid to the tourist sector, while purchasing vaccinations helps to progressively relax some travel restrictions.
- The EU’s principal programme to aid Europe’s post-COVID recovery is NextGenerationEU.
The EU’s COVID recovery plan is a large effort designed to assist nations in managing the economic effect of coronavirus and the actions that will be taken after it is eradicated. This has resulted in the approval of the biggest EU stimulus package in history.
The strategy seeks to create “a greener, more digital, and more resilient Europe,” according to the European Commission. But, what are the exact fiscal and financial strategies that will assist the tourist industry in recovering from the crisis?
This article examines the several initiatives that the EU has approved in order to assist Schengen states, other member countries, and their residents in securing Europe COVID financing and regaining freedom of movement.
It also explains how much money has been provided to EU nations and the primary objectives of the union as it recovers from the epidemic, as well as how to rebuild tourism in Europe.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS ALLOCATED TO THE EU RECOVERY PACKAGE?
The epidemic and the Union’s reaction to the crisis resulted in significant adjustments to the previously scheduled EU budget for 2020. As a result, the EU has set aside €750 billion to aid member countries in their post-pandemic recovery under the NextGenerationEU initiative.
The EU has also set aside significant funds (approximately €5 billion) for its Corona Response Investment Initiative (CRII), as well as approved a €1074.3 billion long-term bloc budget.
HOW WILL COUNTRIES BENEFIT FROM THE NEXTGENERATIONEU SCHEME?
On July 21, 2020, after 5 days of intense negotiations, European Union leaders reached a historic accord to cope with the economic impacts of the COVID epidemic, one of their greatest problems to date.
NextGenerationEU established a €750 billion euro stimulus deal to assist nations in recovering from the financial challenges caused by the epidemic.
It is the first time that EU member countries would issue bonds together, and funds will be sent to nations in the area who have been impacted the worst by the pandemic. Italy, for example, received €250 billion from the new EU Covid-19 recovery fund.
HOW CAN NEXTGENERATIONEU FUNDS BE USED?
The NextGenerationEU programme is a significant step forward in coronavirus collaboration throughout Europe. This initiative’s finances are expressly designated for EU initiatives and activities that focus on the three points listed below:
RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE FACILITY (RRF)
Countries are urged to utilise the RRF funding to implement financial and social changes that will assist economies in recovering and becoming more robust to future crises. A large portion of the scheme’s budget (about €672.5 billion) is earmarked for this purpose.
One of the RRF’s components involves supporting “clean, smart, and equitable urban transportation,” which is regarded as a potential to modernise Member States’ present systems while also addressing the bloc’s climate and digital concerns.
RECOVERY ASSISTANCE FOR COHESION AND TERRITORIES OF EUROPE (REACT-EU)
REACT-EU allocates €47.5 billion to assist European economies in adopting green and digital recovery solutions. REACT-EU, like RRF, focuses on a resilient recovery from the crisis in areas such as employment retention and job development.
The EU emphasises that this sort of assistance may be provided to “the significantly impacted tourism and cultural sectors,” particularly in countries that rely substantially on foreign travel, such as Spain, Greece, and France, among many others.
NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
NextGenerationEU will also give additional cash for a number of environmental and rural development projects. Other programmes that will benefit include the Just Transition Funds (JTF), InvestEU, RescEU, and Horizon 2020.
IS THERE SPECIFIC EU FUNDING TO HELP THE TOURISM SECTOR?
According to a research provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, foreign tourism will be down 60% by 2020. (OECD). So, what is the EU doing to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 in tourist-related industries including transportation, cruises, accommodation, cuisine, and the cultural sector?
According to the European Parliament’s Research Service, “the EU has limited powers in the tourism sector and can only support, coordinate, or supplement Member States‘ action in this area,” implying that it is up to the EU countries to decide where the funds are allocated.
However, in May 2020, the European Commission issued a specific communication titled Tourism and Transport in 2020 and Beyond, which included “a package that provides reassurances and clarity for people, as well as a pathway to recovery for tourism and transport.”
The document emphasises three key areas to safely restore:
- Unrestricted free movement and reopen internal borders
- Transport and connectivity
- Tourism services, “in particular hospitality”.
According to the EU report, “tourism is the fourth largest EU export category.”
TOURISM RESCUE ACTION PLAN FOR TRAVEL BUSINESSES IN THE EU
This EU’s tourist recovery plan also cites a tourism rescue action plan proposed by the European Parliament’s Tourism Task Force in March 2020. The following recommendations were included in the proposal:
- Setting up a national compensation scheme
- Providing efficient support to the affected businesses in this sector
- Creating special assistance and direct financial aid instruments “for regions and areas depending mainly on the income of tourism”
It remains to be seen if these tourism-specific initiatives are applied uniformly throughout EU Member States.
HOW CAN COUNTRIES ACCESS THE CRII?
The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) was established to assist EU nations in their recovery from the epidemic. EU Member States can respond to some of the most pressing economic crises by mobilising unspent money in EU funds:
- Spending on healthcare
- Support short-term work schemes
- Support small and medium-sized enterprises
This is supplemented by a new set of measures known as the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), which provides further assistance in the following areas:
- Flexibility: between funds, regions and topics, full EU co-financing rate
- Protection for the hardest hit: food and basic materials assistance in the form of e-vouchers
- Support for key sectors: farmers, fishermen, and food sectors.
CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE INVESTMENT INITIATIVE IN ACTION
The EU recovery strategy differs by country, with each government authorised to deploy CRII funding based on its needs to combat coronavirus. The following are some instances of how European nations are utilising the scheme:
- Croatia: 400 million euros have been mobilised with investments in online tools for primary and secondary education and a world-class children’s health research centre.
- Bulgaria: 20 million euros of funding have helped purchase first-class medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment including over 2 million face masks.
- Hungary: 320 million euros have been reallocated to provide working capital loans for SMEs affected by the economic crisis. Increased support for companies in the services sector.
- Lithuania: 250 million euros of ESI funds going towards purchasing testing kits, medical equipment and personal protective equipment. Support for businesses and economic stimulus packages are also being made more widely available.
REOPENING EUROPE TO LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL TOURISM
The European Union has offered a variety of alternatives to assist revive international and intra-EU travel.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate, an unified mechanism that may be used by all its members to allow travellers arriving in European destinations to show that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, is one of these proposed concepts.
This was recently lauded at the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) last conference as a viable strategy to “making summer 2021 the beginning of the post-pandemic period” in terms of tourism. Other jurisdictions have been advised to utilise the Green Pass as a model for developing their own travel regulations for vaccinated guests.
At the same conference, new EU recovery plans to build Public Health Corridors utilising a single traffic signal system were considered. This also adheres to the framework established by the EU with its Reopen EU effort to assist visitors in learning about the safety of cross-border travel.
Furthermore, UNWTO is collaborating closely with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on a solution to assist the tourist industry in rebuilding and improving resilience to crises. This target for the sector will also be aligned with the EU’s plans to achieve a greener, more sustainable future.
NEW EUROPEAN INSPIRED SAFETY SEAL FOR TOURISM PROVIDERS
The EU Commission and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) will develop a new quality label for tourist operators who adhere to its new COVID-secure travel plans as part of the European tourism recovery strategy.
The European Tourism COVID-19 Safety Seal is intended to expedite the EU’s opening to tourism during the summer season of 2021 and to restore traveller trust.
Companies and tour operators providing these services may be eligible for the label provided they meet the new health and safety guidelines’ recommendations and criteria.
This, however, is an optional step in the tourist recovery strategy following COVID-19 and will not be formally enforced. Those who do utilise it, however, will be able to ensure tourists that they are completely compliance with the safety criteria defined under the European tourism strategy.
Furthermore, in order to comply with the standards established by CEN and the EU Commission, operators are advised to take advantage of available funds made accessible by Europe’s tourist recovery programmes. This will assist to offset the expenses of putting the new safety standards in place.
WHICH TOURISM OPERATORS MAY ACQUIRE THE SAFETY SEAL UNDER THE EUROPEAN TOURISM PLANS?
Many tourism operators can benefit from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) plans, which serve as the foundation for the EU’s own safety seal scheme. The European Tourism COVID-19 Safety Seal is valid for the following tourism entities:
- Adventure tourism
- Eco tourism
- Golf services
- Medical and wellness spas
- Museum and heritage sites
- Natural protected areas (NPAs)
- Night leisure
- Diving schools
- Ski resorts
- Theme and leisure parks
- Tourist transport
- Tourist guides
- Travel agencies
- Yacht harbours and nautical activities.
G20 DISCUSSIONS ON THE FUTURE OF TOURISM POST PANDEMIC
The Italian chair of the G20 has highlighted the topic of tourist recovery strategies post-COVID-19. As a result, the OECD has created a thorough policy guidance for member countries to utilise when they reopen.
The G20 Rome Guidelines on the Future of Tourism include seven main principles, which include:
- Safe mobility for travellers
- Crisis management for tourism in the event of future global crises
- Preparing a stronger, more stable tourism industry for uncertain times.
- Creating clearer obvious benefits from tourism for locals affected by it.
- Spearheading a green transformation to sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.
- Taking greater advantages of digital opportunities
- Creating a more robust investment structure for international tourism.
This proposal reflects many of the arguments raised in the European Union’s tourist plan, as well as programmes such as the European Union’s NextGenerationEU stimulus. The G20 Rome Guidelines on the Future of Tourism, on the other hand, will benefit all other OECD nations as well as those in the EU.
HOW EU COUNTRIES ARE PREPARING FOR POST-COVID TOURISM
European tourist recovery plans continue to move forward at a rapid pace, with several countries putting out their long-term goals for inter-national travel. By June 2021, all 27 member states had notified the EU of their resource decisions on the money required to manage their tourist openings. Some of the largest EU tourist destinations have also defined their specific strategies for promoting the revival of regional tourism in Europe beginning in summer 2021 by committing to a number of major activities.
SPAIN: TOURISM MODERNISATION GOALS
Europe’s second most visited country is to use €3,400 million in EU funds to modernise its large tourism sector. It intends to strengthen its present competitiveness through the following initiatives:
- Improving the sustainability of tourism in its busiest and non-mainland destinations.
- Creating better digital solutions and tourism intelligence.
- Committing to better energy efficiency and diversification of its tourism industry.
ITALY: TOURISM AND CULTURE 4.0
Italy was one of the first countries to shut down in reaction to the first wave of COVID-19. It has now committed €7,700 million in EU cash for its Tourism and Culture 4.0 programme.
This will concentrate on the following topics:
- Supporting green and digital transformations for cultural operators
- Upgrading its tourist facilities, services and infrastructure
- Re-greening and measuring the environmental value of tourism
- Plans to revitalize historical destinations and encourage ‘slow’ tourism.
FRANCE: RESTORING THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR TOURIST DESTINATION
France ranked first in international tourist arrivals in 2019 and hopes to regain that position once tourism begins. It intends to accomplish this through a three-step national recovery plan that will provide €100 million in emergency funding to its most pandemic-affected sectors.
The plan’s three main objectives are as follows:
- Supporting a green transition for affected industries such as tourism.
- Improving competitiveness and resilience within these sectors.
- Helping workers and vulnerable citizens gain new skills and better access to jobs in the funded industries.
GREECE 2.0 PLAN FOR GREEK ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Greece is one of the EU’s most reliant on tourism and has thus been particularly heavily struck by the outbreak. Greece 2.0 will allocate €5,700 million of EU cash to assist its economy improve.
Its plans for recovery involve considerable investment in tourism, like previously, through the following actions:
- More funding for mountain and health tourism.
- Upgrading tourist ports and access to beaches.
- Improving HR skills in the tourism industry.