Bregu: Tourism in Western Balkans already feels the punch of COVID-19 pandemic

Bregu: Tourism in Western Balkans already feels the punch of COVID-19 pandemic

SARAJEVO, April 19 (FENA) – Almost half of the tourism agencies and tour operators in the region started to cut costs and lay off employees. As this pandemic keeps billions of people at home, one sector is already feeling the pinch – tourism. One in five booked trips to Western Balkans planned for 2020 is canceled.

This makes situation notoriously difficult, knowing that tourism contributes to 10.2% of the region’s GDP in the Western Balkans, while 11.4 % of the total employees are from Travel & Tourism sector, which means downturns in this employment scheme will be a fact soon, said Majlinda Bregu, Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), on the occasion of the International Day of Monuments and Sites marked by the tourism sector.

RCC-lead and EU-funded Tourism Development and Promotion project conducted a survey with tourism agencies and operators working from the Western Balkans, which will be available soon. The preliminary results show that 42% of travel agencies and tour operators have already started cutting costs and sacked some employees. Around 20% of them have already stopped their operations, while 41% have enough resources to keep normal operations for only up to 3 months.

Struggling with the difficult circumstances by themselves would be extremely difficult; therefore 72% of agencies and operators in the tourism sector in the region expect support from their Governments in order to resume operations once the lockdown caused by COVID19 outbreak is over.

The impact of corona pandemic is huge worldwide and the World Tourism Organisation estimates that international arrivals in 2020 across the globe could decline by 20% and even 30%, meaning that this sector could “loose” some 7 years of its growth, as at the European level it is losing 1 billion per month.

“What will the authorities do to reduce the negative effects of the crises, support tourism and attract visitors to our region? Will financial support be enough? How much can we get from tax relief? What we can do to ease the pains? The region needs more tourists. What about the visa relief system or no visa travel regime among WB? Can we make the first steps ourselves? We can appeal to everyone to come together, now, in a united front, to limit unprecedented losses of tourism revenues. Let’s start marketing and promotion of new ideas on how to save the sector,” concluded Bregu.