As summer approaches, a new concern arises. What will happen with tourism this year?! Do we even get to think about planning possible vacation?!
Although how promising year 2020 sounded at first, things turned out to be less convenient for everyone worldwide as the world health and economic crisis took place following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
The after-effects of the global health crisis are witnessed in almost every industry and tourism in particular is one of the hardest-hit as lockdowns have all but ground the sector to a halt, just like the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has previously warned. The pandemic is believed to reduce the tourist arrivals by between 20-30 per cent this year, down from an estimated growth of 3-4 per cent forecast in early January. This would then translate into a loss of between 30-50 billion dollars (27.5-46 billion euros) in spending by international visitors. In the meantime, 75 million jobs are at risk worldwide.
Several European countries are particularly reliant on tourism. Italy, Spain and France are three of the most impacted by COVID-19. While EU is keen to save what it can of the summer season, the European Commission Executive Vice President Margarethe Vestager admits that this will not be a normal summer. In the meantime, on the travel the EC proposes an approach in phases which starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations.
In Italy the flights with the European Union member countries will be available starting from June 3 while Germany and Austria are deciding independently to reopen their borders in mid-June. In an attempt to save Europe’s dozens of billion dollars tourism industry, the fastest and more efficient solution to keep the further spread of the pandemic under control is urging the creation of interoperable COVID-19 contact tracing apps.
Coordination for the actual solutions
One of the key recommendations that the European Union shares along with the “Tourism and transport: Commission’s guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot Europe’s tourism in 2020” is the deployment of the contact-tracing apps by various EU countries that are able to talk to each other so that the citizens can report a positive test or receive an alert wherever they are in EU and whatever app they are using. Once people will be able to cross borders again, the actual apps’ lack of interoperability will leave the most important matter at the moment, that of the further spread of COVID-19, unsolved. Furthermore, being that every country is working on their own contact-tracing app, some of the implementation technologies are different.
One of the most important discussions in the world of technology today is the decentralized approach by Apple and Google, which provides necessary information related to the pandemic for governments and health systems while allowing different apps to talk to one another. This approach has been chosen by countries like Italy and Germany.
Other countries such as U.K. and France though are trying to adopt a more centralized approach that would allow contact-tracing, but that has riskier privacy implications. The fact that the apps will not be built upon the IOS and Android systems, the apps might prove buggy.
What’s more important to note about the whole situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is that: “We are starting to live with the virus,” as the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen has earlier expressed.
The app coordination is not the only solution suggested. In order to support the travel firms, the Commission has proposed to make vouchers rather than cash refunds, an alternative solution for travelers whose trips have been cancelled, protecting therefore the travel firms’ insolvency.
There will be a framework set up by the Commission for the safe reintroduction of tourism visiting important matters such as health-system and testing capacity, as well as providing real time information about border situation and travel restrictions through a digital map for the tourists.