For Europe, 300 Million Tourist Visits at Risk

Just four countries in Europe had 270 million tourist visits last year. The United Kingdom had 36 million, while there were 89 million in France, 83 million in Spain and 38 million in Germany. The remaining countries in the region had tens of millions more per year. How many of these people will not come this year? By some estimates, 20% to 50% of a normal year. However, the spread of COVID-19 has quickened from the United States to South America, to Russia and India. The worst-case estimates have become ever more likely.

Take France. Estimated tourism revenue is $73 billion a year. Tourism has an invisible ripple effect on economies. There are tickets and hotel meals. There are companies that unload baggage, provide food to hotels and restaurants, and provide uniforms for employees. There are cars that take workers to and from the places where they work. Where does the effect end? Any answer is a guess, no matter how educated.

One effect is certain. Hundreds of thousands of people have jobs that rely directly on tourism. The ripple effect makes that much larger. Whatever harm the pandemic has done to these economies and will do in the future will make the lack of travelers worse.

Economists say that several factors might mitigate the loss of traditional travelers. In the European Union, people may be able to travel from country to country. Some tourists travel within their own countries. A global flare-up of COVID-19 will take a great deal of this upside away.

Tourism, a mainstay of the EU and U.K. economies for decades, back well into the 19th century, has started to wither. It almost certainly will not return to the levels of the past several years for a very long time.