Europe’s journey business determined as Covid surges

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In 2020, workers will carry scaffolding on the beach “Paradise” on the Greek Cycladic island of Mykonos. The island has traditionally been overcrowded with wealthy foreigners, but it turned into a ghost island last year.

ARIS MESSINIS | AFP | Getty Images

During the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps no other industry was hit harder than the global travel and tourism sector, as planes grounded, resorts closed, and carefree vacations are a distant memory for most of us.

Some countries in Europe – Greece, Spain, and Portugal, for example – rely on tourism to fuel economic growth, with the prosperity of thousands of businesses, livelihoods, and communities tied to the success or failure of the season.

With Covid vaccinations rolled out across the region since late 2020, there were high hopes that Europe could look forward to a recovery in summer tourism this year.

Instead, the season looks very uncertain, as the delta variant is increasing in Europe and stipulating a multitude of different rules and restrictions, traffic light systems, country risk profiles as well as possible quarantines and entry requirements for vaccines.

Fourth wave?

Traveling within Europe these days is in many ways not for the faint of heart. The Covid infection rate has increased across the region as the highly contagious Delta variant has conquered the globe.

As with the previous Alpha variant (which Delta has now usurped), the UK was something of a harbinger of doom when it came to what the rest of Europe could expect. The UK saw another wave of Covid caused by the alpha variant earlier this year and is now seeing another wave with Delta.

Despite efforts on the continent to contain the variant, the inevitable spread has occurred, with the strain now accounting for the majority of new infections from country to country.

The Netherlands and Spain have seen large spikes in cases, largely due to the night sector, after both countries reopened their nightclubs in late June, only to reverse course two weeks later. Meanwhile, France announced earlier this week that it was entering a fourth wave of the pandemic, with government spokesman Gabriel Attal sounding the alarm:

“We have entered a fourth wave. The epidemic dynamics are extremely strong. We are seeing a faster wave and a bigger surge than any previous … the incidence rate continues to explode … So big, so sudden, we have that not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, “said Attal on Monday.

Tourism and airline stocks took a hit earlier this week as global markets slumped on renewed fears about the global recovery. EasyJet and Ryanair, well-known low-cost airlines in Europe, were among the stocks that posted significant price losses. EasyJet’s shares, for example, traded at 842.20 pence on Friday but fell to 758.20 pence early Monday afternoon.

Easyjet CEO Johan Lundgren told CNBC on Tuesday that the travel sector was facing an “extremely challenging” situation, but that vaccination programs in Europe were key to reopening. The data shows that two doses from Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca-Oxford University are effective against the Delta variant, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death.

“We always knew that [the recovery] shouldn’t be a straight line … But we see the restrictions lifted. But it is absolutely right that when you open up societies and communities, infections also increase. The question is whether the vaccinations make the link between [infection and] severe hospitalization and death, and luckily it looks like it, “Lundgren told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe.

Complex trips

Anyone planning a last-minute European vacation this year should expect an often confusing, complex, and quite stressful experience – even before you get off the plane.

As a general example of the complexities of vacationing in these troubled times, let’s take traveling from the UK to Greece – a vacation that 3.4 million Britons took in 2019, as official statistics show:

Greece allows UK visitors if they can provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test performed within 72 hours of arriving in the country or evidence of a negative rapid antigen test performed by an authorized laboratory within the 48 hour before the scheduled flight; or proof of two doses of a Covid vaccine completed at least 14 days prior to travel.

Before entering Greece, however, you must fill out a passenger search form with your vaccination status, your vacation address and the next of kin no later than 11:59 p.m. (local time) the previous day. Then vacationers must take a PCR test and fill out another passenger locator form before returning to the UK, and then have another PCR test or 10 day quarantine within two days of their return to the UK.

All of that, and Greece is actually one of the easier places to vacation this year.

Like its fellow Europeans, Greece has not escaped the somewhat inevitable spike in Covid cases as the economy (especially the island’s night economy) has opened up. Still, the daily number of cases seems small compared to France or the UK. On Wednesday, Greece reported 2,972 new cases, 19 of which were located after controls at the country’s borders.

Busier times in Paliouri Beach, Greece: this picture was taken in 2017 which was considered one of the busiest summers in terms of visitor arrivals.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the Teneo Intelligence risk advisory service, stated on Wednesday that the resurgence of Covid-19 in Greece “brings with it new challenges, particularly with regard to another lean tourist season and the following economic consequences”, circumstances that Put pressure on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“Mitsotakis had hoped to leave the pandemic behind this summer when his center-right government reached the middle of its four-year return to growth. However, the Covid-19 numbers have risen significantly in recent weeks and the important tourism sector is already pushing for more government support in the fall, fearing that visitor numbers will be even more disappointing this year, “said Piccoli.

As the Delta variant gradually became more dominant, Piccoli noted that Greece was puzzled as “the number of daily vaccinations has fallen below 100,000 this month, despite the government incentivizing Greeks between the ages of 18 and 25 150 euros (177 US dollars) offers vaccinated. “

So far, only about 120,000 of an estimated 980,000 Greeks in this age group have been vaccinated.

Immunization rates in the general population have reached nearly 52% for at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly 44% for full vaccination, Piccoli noted, adding that “the recent slower uptake has cast doubt on the government’s ability to meet its vaccination goal.” 70-75% of the adult population by the end of summer. “