(By Alessandra Briganti) If tourism is Europe's oil, the pandemic has stopped it pumping.
Europe, which accounts for 51% of the world tourism market (UNWTO, 2019), has suffered a collapse in demand that threatens 6.6 million of its 11 million jobs in the sector (JRC, 2020).
Yet the health crisis could be an opportunity to rethink the traditional tourism model and make it more innovative, cultural and environmentally sustainable.
This rethink is necessary as, by its nature, the tourism industry is focused on economic growth and gives no or little importance to the environment, society and culture, according to a overview given a report by ESPON programme, which is specialized in the analysis of EU regional policies. The report was based on an examination of the impact of COVID on tourism in the EU in order to outline the sector's development trends, above all in relation to cultural heritage.
Citing a European Joint Research Centre (JRC) study, the report highlights the dramatic consequences the pandemic risks having in terms of employment, especially in countries where the proportion of jobs generated by tourism is higher, where there is greater use of seasonal workers and the number of international visitors is higher.
Croatia, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Slovenia, Spain and Austria are the countries where the impact on jobs could be greatest, followed by Italy, France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.
There is a climate of great uncertainty that is affecting the future of the young generations, hitting "whole social spheres, both private and public, of our lives and our well-being" the researchers wrote.
"It is clear, however, that the unexpected, prolonged and still unpredictable COVID-19 crisis will contribute in a major way to directing the attention of citizens and political decision-makers to sustainability, the environment and the future," they said.
The researchers explained that an essential part of this challenge regards cultural heritage, which is central to the "the relaunch of the economy, including via the regeneration of urban and suburban territories".
This is particularly true for Italy and for its "vast coastal, tourism regions that look out onto the Mediterranean".
These areas are already affected by "soil erosion, natural disasters, the impact of climate change and river floods" and are "the areas most sensitive to extreme weather events" along with "hot zones, such as the Po Valley and Venice".
The study concludes that, with regards to the challenges stemming from the current pandemic, "European regions and cities are called on to respond with innovative solutions", redefining the concept of 'regeneration' and of 'governance'.
It is a way to get the oil pump working again without it destroying us.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © Copyright ANSA