Almost half of all hospitality employees lost job in sector during last year

Almost half of all people employed in the Belgian hospitality sector during the first quarter of 2020 no longer have a job in this sector, according to the Federal Public Service Economy’s Labour Force Survey published on Tuesday.

The study compared the labour market status of the first quarter of last year when the pandemic started in Belgium with the first quarter of this year and found that, although most people are still in employment, the rate of employment has not recovered as well in all sectors.

“We see a particular effect among workers in hotels and restaurants: of those who were working in hotels and restaurants in the first quarter of 2020, only two-thirds are employed a year later,” the report read.

In the first quarter of 2021, the sector employed 40.4% fewer people than during the same period in 2020.

In comparison, employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector also dropped by around 10%. Only the Agriculture, forestry and fishing and ‘Human health and social work’ sectors had slightly higher job retention rates.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, businesses in the catering industry are finding it hard to fill vacancies, not because there are not enough people looking for a job in this sector – around 8,000 people are, according to Bruzz – but because jobseekers don’t have the relevant education or experience.

The number of job offers in the hotel and catering industry is at its highest since April, and the number of job-seekers in the sector has also remained high since March last year however a lack in experience as well as in the certainty such jobs offer during a pandemic is resulting in them remaining unfilled.

Job seekers’ struggle

When it comes to the impact on the unemployed, the study found that 44.9% of the job seekers in 2020 were unemployed (again) a year later, 29.1% have stopped looking or are no longer available for work and just 26% have found a job since.

The rate of continued unemployment varies between the French- and Flemish-speaking regions: in Flanders, 38.4% of the jobless remain unemployed, but another 38.6% found a job a year later.

In comparison, 48.6% remain unemployed and only 18.6% go back to work in Wallonia, whilst in Brussels, the rates are similar, with 48.7% people remaining jobless and 19.1% finding a job.

Young people and low-skilled people are particularly affected, as, respectively, only 80.2% and 77.4% of those who were employed at the start of 2020 were still employed in the first quarter of this year.

FPS Economy pointed out that making comparisons between the two periods when it comes to unemployment has become more complicated as the definition of employment changed in the new European Framework Regulation.

Now, people who have been temporarily unemployed for more than three months (‘long-term temporarily unemployed’) are considered unemployed or inactive, and no longer employed.

“In the first quarter of 2021, it is estimated that 80,000 long-term temporarily unemployed people will be counted as inactive (and to a lesser extent, unemployed),” the report explained.


France fines Google €1.1 million for ‘misleading’ consumers with its hotel rankings

France has fined Google €1.1 million for allegedly “misleading” consumers with their rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodations.

A 2019 investigation by the French consumer watchdog and finance ministry found the tech giant was guilty of “misleading commercial practice”.

Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement, after approval from the Paris public prosecutor, the ministry said.

Both organisations have since altered their practices, it added in a statement.

France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had launched a probe into Google in September 2019 after complaints from hotels.

Businesses had argued that the display of around 7,500 hotels on Google’s search engine was unfair, compared to the official classification issued by Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency.

The watchdog found that Google had replaced the Atout France ranking with their own criteria, but had used an identical system of 1 to 5 “stars”, which was “highly confusing” for customers.

“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, who were misled about the level of service they could expect when booking accommodation,” the authority stated.

“It was also detrimental to hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as being lower than in the official Atout France classification.”

Since September 2019, Google has “corrected their practices” and reverted to the official classification issued by Atout France.

“We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search,” a company spokesperson told Euronews.

Google stated that their previous classification of hotels used a variety of sources, including Atout France, as well as feedback from hoteliers and other party sources.

The settlement with the DGCCRF does not affect users’ ability to rate and review hotels on Google.

In December, Google was also fined €35 million by France’s online data privacy watchdog for allegedly breaching rules on cookies.

The National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said both Google and Amazon had automatically placed advertising trackers on users’ computers without asking for consent.


Scrap the front desk – Can hotels operate without a physical front desk?

The front desk: the emblem of hospitality. For years and years, we have been walking into a hotel to greet smiling faces behind the familiar desk. However, as technology evolves and continues to transform the hospitality industry, does the front desk continue to be a symbol of care and luxury, or is it transforming into a beacon of tedious outdated processes?

Many industries have already scrapped their version of ‘front-desks’ in favour of more modern and tech-based approaches. The airline industry, for instance, has widely adopted self-service check-in technology. Similarly, movie theatres are also opting to use technology to allow patrons to jump straight into the cinematic experience. Mobile banking began taking over transactions carried out by tellers as far back as 2007.

Recently, Amazon launched ‘just walk out’ shops where shoppers can simply scan a code on their Amazon app, shop, and simply walk out with the groceries. A combination of sensors, cameras and AI handles the hassle of checking out items, scratching billing desks off the books.

So, why is the hospitality industry defying all trends and hanging on to a physical front desk? A well-tailored change along with adopting the right tech solutions can ensure that the guests enjoy the true highlights of their journey without wasting their time on formalities and due process. Scrapping the ancient and rigid front desk can benefit hoteliers in more ways than one.

Tailored Freedom

A looming front desk by the hotel door is not always a welcoming sight, especially for worn-out guests arriving after a long flight, or the guests who want a speedy check-out to rush to a family emergency. A physical front desk freezes check-in and check-out processes to the spot, and this rigidity can backfire when trying to cater to the unique requirements of each guest.

Research into customer sentiments proves that guests value convenience in front desk operations. A study by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) revealed that 76% of guests believe that being able to check-in ahead of time would minimise potential frustration and 41% stated that they would be more likely to select a hotel that offers the convenience of advanced check-in via web or mobile device.

Without a front desk standing in the way, hoteliers can adjust processes to tailor to each guest. It can also allow the staff more opportunities to interact with the guests as they no longer have to stare at a screen punching in guest data.

Smarter and Safer

Amongst the countless changes brought in by the pandemic are the social distancing requirements and the need to reduce touchpoints. The traditional front desk may very well be a hub for contamination as every single guest encounters it. Not to mention the heightened risk to the front desk staff, since, while a guest may only interact with the desk once or twice during their journey, the staff will encounter several such contacts within the day, exponentially multiplying the risk.

However, McKinsey suggests that this is an opportunity to “make it better, not just safer”. They identified that many hotels are doing away with the antiquated check-in process, allowing guests to go directly to their rooms with keyless entry. The calls for reducing touchpoints can be used as an opportunity to adopt a tech-based approach to replace the physical front desk.

Allow Choice

This does not go to say that hotels need to scrap human interactions. The increasing use of tech from airports to vending machines means that some guests might be desperate for a friendly chat with a human. The pitfall of the world’s first robot hotel, the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, is an excellent example of the need for a balance. The inability of the robots to accommodate the nuances in guest behaviour and the breakdowns forced the hotel to remove 243 of its android staff.

The need to scrap the physical front desk is because it creates a barrier between the guests and the staff. Often, these large desks are a way of masking large computers hosting cumbersome tech ‘solutions’. Front desk operations are key points in creating a positive impression on the guest and forcing them through rigid archaic processes will be of little benefit to hoteliers. Adopting simple tech solutions that can run with minimal hardware not only declutters the lobby but, will also create more space for guest engagement.

Instead of a physical front desk, hoteliers can get creative with these processes. Tech-savvy guests can pre-check in and walk straight to their rooms. Others can walk into a cosy lobby where the hotel staff can sit with them and complete the check-in process through a tablet-based solution, while the guests sip on their welcome drinks. This provides an opportunity for hospitality organisations to maintain quality human interactions. Self-check-in kiosks can be used to eliminate waiting times in busier hotels.

41% of persons use a smartphone a few times every hour (Forbes), and 76% of travellers say their smartphone is the most important travel companion (Openkey). These tech-savvy guests are quite familiar with mobile and social media apps and emails. Imagine the impression an archaic desk with people punching data into a large computer will leave on such guests.

Incorporating mobile technology can achieve safer and smarter operations as opposed to a physical front desk. For instance, FX GeM, a contactless mobile solution designed by IDS Next, allows guests to check-in through their own devices with facilities to upload identity documents.

Also, IDS offers FX Mobile Check-In, a tablet-based solution to check-in guests, generate bills, and handle check-outs on the go. FX Roomate, an innovative in-room solution for guests to easily make room service and other requests, eliminates the need for a dedicated physical desk to accommodate guest requests.

Hoteliers today want to change to the future. However, technology vendors stand as a barrier. Your current technology vendor might not allow you to make a change even if you wanted to. That’s why it is important to partner with futuristic companies with mobile-first solutions.


Bookings surge after Covid quarantine rules relaxed

Bookings for flights and holidays have surged after the decision that fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber-list countries will not have to self-isolate after 19 July.

Airlines said there was a rapid rise in ticket purchases within hours after the government announced it was relaxing quarantine rules on Thursday.

EasyJet said bookings to amber-list destinations increased by 400%.

Despite suggestions prices could rise, analysts thought this unlikely.

The need to quarantine on return to the UK has hindered the travel industry’s recovery from the pandemic, with many people choosing not to holiday abroad.

Under previous rules, those returning to Britain from its top holiday destinations – Spain, France, the US and Italy – all had to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

The travel agents’ association, Abta said the industry was “very much led by supply and demand”, so prices could rise as more people booked after the rule change.

‘Pinch of salt’

But consumer group Which? said previous research found holiday prices before and after government green-list announcements “stayed the same or went down, not up”.

It said that so far, prices had not increased to popular destinations on the amber list.

Out of 14 package holiday prices and six flights to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal it tracked departing during the peak holiday season in last August, 12 packages remained the same price and two increased.

Four of the six flights rose in price, although the average fare increase was £7.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, urged people to take news of surging prices “with a pinch of salt”.

EasyJet said flight bookings from the UK to amber-listed countries had surged 400% following the government’s announcement on Thursday, adding that holiday bookings were more than 440% up on the previous week.

Alicante, Malaga, Faro, Nice and Corfu are among the top destinations for flights this summer, the airline said.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, said Europe had “now turned green for the double-jabbed”.

He urged the government to “remove expensive testing” for fully vaccinated people travelling to green and amber-list destinations “as we do not want to see a return to flying being a preserve of the rich”.

British Airways said “within a couple of hours” of the government’s announcement, it witnessed a 96% increase in the number of views on its website compared with Wednesday last week.

A spokesperson for Tui told the BBC the tour operator had seen a “surge in website visits showing demand is incredibly strong”.

The most popular destinations among their holidaymakers were Mediterranean hotspots such as Spain and Greece, the company said.

Hays Travel said in a statement: “There’s huge optimism from our customers who are booking for the popular destinations – about a quarter of our bookings are for Spain this summer – and also for once-in-a-lifetime holidays.”

But one business said the government’s new plans would not change its own decision not to sell holidays at all this summer.

Operator On The Beach had said in May it would not be selling holidays for June, July and August this year. The firm reiterated that decision in the wake of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ announcement.

Spokeswoman Zoe Harris told the BBC: “We welcome the decision, it’s a step in the right direction… but these amber destinations can still go back to red.

“And it’s not just our government restrictions. The governments in the countries we travel to are looking closely at how they manage tourism, we’ll see what the response is from those tourist destinations to see when its the right time for us to start selling July and August holidays again.”


Mr Shapps told the BBC the government was working towards extending the exemption to arrivals from those vaccinated in other countries, provided the vaccine had been approved by the World Health Organization, but said that this was complicated because other countries used different systems.

He suggested EU arrivals may be the first to be able to bypass the quarantine system: “It’s easier from the EU because they’re creating their own digital passport, it’s more complicated from other countries.” He said the US had 50 different systems for each state.

Mr Shapps said he hoped to give more detail in a couple of weeks.

He also warned holidaymakers to expect additional queues when checking in for flights home: “Before you board a plane you would need to show you have completed your passenger locator form, that you have carried out a pre-departure test, that you have got your test booked for day two and all of that needs to be checked by the carrier – the airline usually – before you travel.

“So the place to expect queues is the airport you are coming from. Once you get back to the UK all of that is starting to be automated.”

What are the new travel rules for double-jabbed passengers?

  • Fully vaccinated UK residents arriving in England from amber travel list destinations will no longer have to quarantine from 19 July
  • They still need to pay for tests before and after their return. The second one must be a PCR test, but they will not need a day 8 test
  • The rules apply to people 14 days after their final dose of the vaccine
  • Under-18s returning from amber list places will also be exempt from quarantine
  • The guidance that people should not travel to amber list countries will also be removed from 19 July
  • The next review of countries on the green, red and amber lists will be on 15 July – next Thursday
  • But “an amber list country could still turn red”, warned Mr Shapps, meaning hotel quarantine would become a requirement
  • Anyone arriving in England from a red list country must still go into government-managed hotel quarantine


Tourism Takes Action On Plastic Waste And Pollution

Tourism businesses and destinations are stepping up their commitment to sustainability. Aimed at reducing waste and pollution across the sector, the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI) is welcoming 32 new signatories, with every global region represented behind the shared goal.

The Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It enables businesses, governments and other tourism stakeholders to lead by example in the shift towards a circular economy of plastics. Among the 32 new signatories are organizations such as TUI Group, AC Hotels by Marriott, Palladium Hotel Group, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Hostelling International, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Visit Valencia. These new additions bring the total number of signatories up to 93 companies and organizations. These include organizations from stages of the tourism value chain, including accommodation providers, tour operators, online platforms, suppliers, waste managers and supporting organizations.

Andreas Vermöhlen, Manager for Sustainability, Circular Economy and Sustainable Development at TUI Group said: “Together we can make important steps towards less unnecessary single-use plastic in the world and shift towards a circular economy.”

To mark the confirmation of the new signatories, UNWTO and the United Nations Environment Programme, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, held a special panel discussion with the theme Eliminate. Innovate. Circulate. Strategies from the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative. Participants included Accor Group, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Palladium Hotel Group, Chumbe Island Coral Park and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General said: “Addressing plastic pollution is essential to sustainably restart tourism, preserve destinations and contribute to climate action. We are proud to see the number of signatories growing continuously since the launch of the initiative.”

Alongside this, a keynote presentation on A Life Cycle Approach – Key messages for tourism businesses further highlighted the aims of the GTPI, with a special focus on innovation and the importance of context-based approaches to ensure plastics are circulated back into the economy rather than thrown away after use.

About The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations specialized agency fostering tourism as a vehicle for equal, inclusive and sustainable development. Working with its Member States, international organizations and the private sector, UNWTO promotes safe and seamless travel for all. UNWTO also works to make tourism the foundation of trust and international cooperation and a central pillar of recovery. As part of the wider UN system, UNWTO is at the forefront of global efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through its ability to create decent jobs, promote equality and preserve natural and cultural heritage.


Reintroducing Costly Hotel Brand Standards Threaten Owners Just Getting a Taste of Recovery

The U.S. hotel industry, buoyed by summer leisure travel, exceeded expectations in recent months and even surpassed pre-pandemic performance levels last week. But if another aspect of hotel operations quickly snaps back to normal, hotel owners could be in trouble.

Most hotel companies relaxed brand standards, which range from what kind of cereal to serve at a continental breakfast buffet all the way up to costly renovations of guest rooms and public spaces, during the pandemic as a way to help owners save money during a long stretch of minimal demand.

Should the U.S. hotel recovery momentum continue into the fall, enforcing brand standards are likely back on the table. That could spur a wave of long-awaited hotel property sales.

“It might be the looming capital expenditures and property improvement plans and lack of cash that might cause the capitulation,” said Alan Benjamin, founder and president of hotel furniture and equipment procurement firm Benjamin West.

The combination of more than a year of deferred maintenance and renovations combined with hotel companies looking to avoid bad reviews from travelers coming out of the pandemic will push capital expenditures to all-time highs between 2022 and 2024, West estimates.

The overwhelming demand stems from both hotels that put off these costs during the pandemic as well as from normal maintenance and renovation schedules from hotels that opened or were previously renovated in the last seven years. But some owners may not be able to afford to stick around long enough to go through a renovation cycle.

Hotel owners are typically expected to have cash reserves of 4 to 5 percent of gross revenue readily available for capital expenditures to keep up with brand standards. But owners got permission to tap into these reserves to stay afloat through the pandemic.

“For the first time ever, the lenders greenlit taking that money to hang on to control the asset,” Benjamin said.

Many analysts doubt these reserves have been restored over the last few months, especially in hotels outside leisure markets still struggling to recover. Revenue at U.S. urban hotels in May was still down 52 percent from the same month in 2019, the American Hotel & Lodging Association reported this week.

Eager investors have been salivating over pandemic-related opportunities and bargains to emerge from the hospitality sector, given its outsized impact from the health crisis. While some owners may not discount the pricing of their hotel, many could decide to sell instead of pump money into an asset after a year of tanked revenue and an uncertain recovery trajectory in the years ahead.

A Long-Simmering Debate

Owners and investors have decried brand standards for years over their perceived excessive costs and limited return on investment.

Starwood Capital spent $250 million on property improvement plans on a portfolio, and the investment firm’s CEO, Barry Sternlicht, claimed last year at the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Tourism’s Future Hospitality Summit the company didn’t gain any market share following the investment.

“If you own a Courtyard and it is number one in its [competitive] set, they’ll ask you to spend $7 million when it rebrands, and none of that money has been worthwhile,” he added. “It’s like throwing money in the ocean.”

Sternlicht and Starwood Capital are more in the camp of buy mode, but analysts think other owners could be in a more vulnerable position.

“Brand standard upgrades and renovations can either crush a hotel or help reposition it into a more desirable market ‘sweet spot,’” said Chekitan Dev, the Singapore Tourism Distinguished Professor at Cornell University and an expert on hospitality branding. “Bringing back a full set of pre-pandemic standards is going to be a hard sell for brands and a hard slog for owners who are trying to recover lost profits.”

There was already a pre-pandemic tension around brand standards issued from hotel companies to the owners responsible for paying for them. The brands want to add enhanced amenities and design with the hope more customers will choose their property instead of a competitor’s. Owners are typically more focused on reducing costs to boost profit.

Both stances are likely to continue during the pandemic recovery. Brands are likely to do what they can to differentiate a property in a more competitive market with limited travel demand — like urban markets the rely more on business travel — while owners will want to find efficiencies to save money.

Dev sees four options for hotel owners: revert to pre-pandemic brand standards, convert to a different brand with different standards, debrand entirely and become an independent hotel, or sell.

“Ultimately, the decision will be driven by a multitude of factors including the renovation cost per key vis a vis the ability to raise rate, the owner’s bargaining position with the brand, the brand’s desirability, the availability of alternate brands, the owner’s marketing and operating expertise, the availability of third-party management companies, the location of the hotel, and buyers for the hotel,” he added.

Solutions Beyond a Sale

Not every hotel owner necessarily needs to panic about a quick revert to the way things used to be with brand standards.

Hotel executives indicated in recent months there are at least some conversations around how to reintroduce these measures without breaking the bank for owners only just beginning to see occupancy rates on the rise.

“We are currently assessing post-COVID renovation of brand standards with a view toward finding more ways to improve hotel profitability while preserving the quality and experiences guests expect of our brands when they stay with us,” Leeny Oberg, chief financial officer at Marriott, said on the company’s first quarter earnings call before later adding: “We’ve got to make sure that we’re taking into consideration the dramatically lower cash reserves that the hotel owners have and picking our spots and making sure that we’re picking the renovation work that is critical to the customer experience.”

While she didn’t provide specifics, Oberg noted she expected the company to have a finalized approach on brand standards sometime next year.

For owners that are expected to snap back into costly renovations, there are other options. The Curator Hotel & Resort Collection launched last year aimed at appealing to hotel owners wanting a bit more autonomy than they would have associating with a bigger brand, including around brand standards.

Global hotel companies would be wise to note they aren’t the only option for owners coming out of the pandemic.

“Many brands permitted hotels to gut brand standard to help the hotels stay alive. The consequence of this is hotels that have learned to operate with a lot less and differently than they did before the pandemic,” Dev said. “To preserve the brand-hotel relationship, and to bring back the standards that define the brands’ reason for being, brands must draw on learnings from the pandemic and be creative to help hotels meet their standards.”


Recovery of European tourism in sight this Summer

BRUSSELS – European travel activity is set to build some momentum moving into the peak summer months due to the gradual easing of restrictions, the ramp-up in vaccinations, and the EU’s recent reopening to more third countries and fully vaccinated travellers from abroad. Travel demand is expected to pick up considerably in the second half of 2021, though international arrivals will still remain 49% below pre-pandemic levels in 2021. That is according to the latest quarterly ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ report published by the European Travel Commission (ETC).

The report notes that this summer season is essential for the sector as European travel demand remained weak in early 2021 – international tourist arrivals dropped 83% (1) in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2020. Meanwhile, downside risks linger following the surge in infections of the more transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, which could force the return of travel restrictions.

President of ETC, Luís Araújo, noted “In view of the rapidly advancing vaccination programmes, which reduce pressure on national health systems and protect our most vulnerable, Europe is now managing the COVID risks well both for locals and our long-awaited travellers. We therefore believe that safe travel is possible this summer. The reopening is also fuelled by the strong desire of people to travel again and secured by the readiness of our sector to provide safe and responsible travel experiences. As Europe is opening up, it is imperative that clear and coherent messages are communicated to prospective travellers.”

Declines in foreign tourist arrivals to Europe continue well into 2021
Hopes for summer relief are high following the catastrophic start of 2021 in European tourism, with latest available data indicating that 3 in 5 destinations posted declines over 80% in international tourist arrivals. Austria has so far suffered the greatest percent decline in visitors. COVID-19 tight containment measures wiped out expectations of a winter tourism season, resulting in a 97% plunge in tourist arrivals to the Alpine country.

On the contrary, Croatia significantly outperformed other European destinations, reporting a 23% increase in visitor arrivals. The country led the way in waiving most COVID-19 travel entry restrictions for international travellers provided they had been vaccinated, could present a negative test, or had recovered from the virus.

Europe’s tourism rebound in reach
Intra-European travel is expected to bolster travel demand in the second half of 2021, with improving epidemiological situation across Europe enabling governments to ease restrictions and satisfy the longing among people to travel again. The latest forecast shows that intra-European travel will account for 83% of Europe’s inbound arrivals in 2021 compared to 77% in 2019.

As vaccinations gather pace across Europe with over 62% of the EU’s adult population having received at least one vaccine dose, European travel demand this summer is projected to catch up. ETC’s data shows that 54% of surveyed Europeans intend to book a trip once they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 (2).

The EU’s Digital COVID Certificate, active as of July 1st, is also expected to support the release of pent-up travel demand and accumulated excess savings during the pandemic.

Bumpy road to long-haul travel recovery
Long-haul travel demand is projected to recover more slowly, with barriers set to remain in place well beyond the end of 2021. While domestic and intra-European travel is expected to return to 2019 volumes by 2022 and 2023 respectively, travel from long-haul source markets is not likely to recover until 2025.

The US market is expected to make the most significant contribution to Europe-wide travel demand growth in the coming years. Announcements to welcome vaccinated American travellers have already boosted Transatlantic travel to destinations such as Iceland, Croatia and Greece in May 2021. According to ForwardKeys’ data, issued tickets from the US to Croatia (+0.5%) and Iceland (+22.7%) have surpassed 2019 levels, while Greece is just 10.9% behind.

China is also expected to make a sizeable contribution to European travel growth over the next decade. Despite accounting for a smaller proportion of arrivals to the region, an expected average annual growth rate of 12% would see Chinese arrivals contribute 4.7% of overall arrivals growth to European destinations over the period 2019-30. However, while domestic traffic in China continues to show remarkable recovery to pre-pandemic levels, Chinese international travel remains stagnant for now.


Canada Won’t Reopen To Tourism for ‘Quite a While’

Despite easing restrictions on travel from the United States for fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents earlier this week, Canada has no plans to reopen its border to non-essential travel anytime soon.

“I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday, according to Reuters. “We need to continue to ensure the safety of Canadians,” he added, stressing the importance of making sure that the past year-plus of quarantine and restrictions “are not for nothing.”

The Canada-U.S. border is currently closed to non-essential travel until at least July 21. That date is likely to be extended as it draws closer, however.

As of July 5, Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can avoid the country’s 14-day quarantine requirement and eligible air travelers no longer have to spend their first three days in the country at a government-approved hotel.

“The next step we’ll be looking at what measures we can allow for international travelers who are fully vaccinated,” Trudeau added. “We will have more to say in the coming weeks.”

On Wednesday, a White House official told Reuters that the Biden administration is still not close to reopening the U.S. to international travel.


Digital Tools to Revitalize Tourism

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) continues to energize the restart of tourism based on sustainability and innovation. An agreement with MUST Travel & Tech places a digital tool at the service of tourism, allowing users to share their experiences to promote the reactivation of the sector with a view to sustainability. Presented during the UNWTO Mayors’ Forum in Porto, Portugal, the tool is an opportunity for the advancement of smart cities, as well as destinations that incorporate technology and innovation in their development.

Already operating in 60 countries, MUST aggregates all the information of interest to travellers in one place. By also integrating key information and analysis from UNWTO, it aims to become a leading tourism application and generate opportunities for destinations.

Technology at the service of development

We welcome innovative ideas and technologies that allow the creation of global and regional innovation ecosystems aimed at accelerating the recovery of tourism for development

Visibility provided through technological tools is an opportunity for those who, along the entire value chain of the sector, require support to restart their activity, from new destinations around rural communities, to destinations with a high degree of infrastructure development.

“We welcome innovative ideas and technologies that allow the creation of global and regional innovation ecosystems aimed at accelerating the recovery of tourism for development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili upon signing the agreement.

For his part, the CEO of MUST, Pablo López, highlighted that “technology enhances the productivity and resilience of companies. The implementation of digital solutions in line with new trends in the tourism sector allows us to develop a differentiated, personalized and safe tourism product that is more focused on behaviour patterns and the management of spaces that will undoubtedly contribute to the recovery of a key activity for the economy in general”.

Shared objectives

A distinctive element will be the contribution of tourism intelligence from the UNWTO to the users of the tool. In this way, relevant and verified content is combined with data for making informed and evidence-based decisions.

The agreement provides for cooperation in the execution of projects that include, among others:

  • Supporting the digital transformation of tourism service providers.
  • Fostering tourism development and promotion in a sustainable and inclusive way.
  • Boosting innovation in the practices of reservation and consumption of tourism experiences and activities.
  • Encouraging the creation of quality content with a focus on cultural heritage and the authenticity of the destination to be promoted.
  • Promoting and disseminate the UNWTO “Best Tourism Villages” programme on the MUST platform as well as other programmes or events of the Organization.
  • Promoting programmes related to innovation, education and investments that are useful for tourism destinations of mutual interest.

The agreement between UNWTO and MUST will be in place until the end of 2024.

Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.


Tourist Numbers Down 83% but Confidence Slowly Rising

International tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 as widespread travel restrictions remained in place. However, the UNWTO Confidence Index shows signs of a slow uptick in confidence.

Between January and March 2021 destinations around the world welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals over the three-month period. Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%). This all follows on from the 73% fall in worldwide international tourist arrivals recorded in 2020, making it the worst year on record for the sector. 

Lack of coordination harms #RestartTourism

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments: “There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.

The latest survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows prospects for the May-August period improving slightly. Alongside this, the pace of the vaccination rollout in some key source markets as well as policies to restart tourism safely, most notably the EU Digital Green Certificate, have boosted hopes for a rebound in some of these markets.

Overall, 60% expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50% in the January 2021 survey. The remaining 40% see a potential rebound in 2021, though this is down slightly from the percentage in January. Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased (37%), when compared to the January survey.

Tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and the lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as the main obstacle to the sector’s rebound.

The Impact of COVID on Tourism cuts global exports by 4%

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows the economic toll of the pandemic. International tourism receipts in 2020 declined by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), equivalent to a drop of over US$ 900 billion, cutting the overall worldwide exports value by over 4% in 2020. The total loss in export revenues from international tourism (including passenger transport) amounts to nearly US$ 1.1 trillion. Asia and the Pacific (-70% in real terms) and the Middle East (-69%) saw the largest drops in receipts.