Greek MEP backs smartphone tracing apps to save European tourism…but wants more done

Summit News 6th June 2020

Contact tracing apps in smartphones will only help the tourism sector in Europe if all countries work together, warns Elenena Kountoura MEP.

She is one of Greece’s most well-known politicians and Ms Kountoura is a guest panellist at a special virtual summit The Future of Travel & Tourism on Wednesday June 10, 2020.

Greece, faces a financial meltdown if tourism is not re-established quickly and the MEP has called for Europe-wide co-operation. 

The former Greek Minister of Tourism joined the European Parliament last year and supports smart phone tracing apps to help curb the spread of the virus. She feels the app could be part of the solution but fears older people may be excluded, like the over-50s in her own country.

“In Greece, the vulnerable population, over the age of 50, constitutes the majority and does not use smartphones at a rate of 71 per cent – to be effective 60-75 per cent of people must use them,” she said.

She was speaking in a debate last month at the European Parliament where she welcomed the introduction of tracing apps to warn people of potential dangerous contact.

“Areas such as tourism need practical solutions now. How will this be done when each EU state uses its own application? If these questions are not answered immediately, I am afraid that the use of contact tracking and warning applications becomes too little too late.”

She admitted she was sceptical about the overall ability of smartphone apps and highlighted concerns she shared with other MEPs: “We would all like to be safe, knowing that we have an application that will inform us anonymously about potential carriers of the virus. If we take into account that the use of the applications is carried out on a voluntary basis, the serious risk of the failure of the project becomes even more obvious.”


Tourism is the major source of foreign income in her home country and she said that if contact-tracing apps are introduced by individual countries it would fail to help the tourism sector recover quickly enough.

Greece, with a population of 9m, has escaped the fate of many European countries with fewer that 200 deaths. But the government is desperate to reopen its supply of foreign income on which its economy, still damaged from the 2008 crash, relies so heavily.

Tourism generates over a quarter of Greece’s gross domestic product, and employs more than 400,000 people. More importantly, 90 per cent of that tourism revenue comes from foreign visitors.

Since 2008 there has been criticism that Greece has relied too heavily on tourism – with the exception of shipping (7 per cent GDP) – and the pandemic has destroyed its biggest foreign income sector.

Greece like many countries across the world, has suffered relatively few cases of Covi-19 but remains unable to receive guest and needs an urgent solution to the pandemic.

Elenena Kountoura MEP is a panellist on the midday session of the conference Rethinking Investments for Better Preparedness Against Potential Future Catastrophes.

Moderated by Peter Greenberg (CBS News), panellists will also include Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism Jamaica, whose country has also suffered relatively low Covid-19 death but has been isolated from the world during the pandemic and relies heavily on tourism income.

Other panellist include Dr. Peter Tarlow, President, Safer Tourism Nicolas Mayer, PWC Industry Leader Hospitality and Tourism EMEA & Managing Partner Global Center of Excellence Tourism & Hospitality.

They will discuss investment and protection for the future. They will discuss options for building resilience and sustainability through new financing mechanisms and examine the support offered by different governments in the wake of Covid-19. What are the options for partnerships with the IMF / IFC / Government and the private sector?

Register Free to be part of the virtual summit on June 10, 2020, begins 9.15am (GMT+1) HERE

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theFuture of Travel June 10

REGISTER The ITIC-WTM virtual conference is FREE to attend online.

It focuses on three themes:

1. Health: dealing with Covid-19, and how we restore travellers’ confidence and rebuild business.

2. Investment: understanding the financial mechanisms that allow you to survive and rebuild.

3. Future: This may not be the last crisis, how can you prepare for any future global catastrophe

This virtual summit uses the latest video technology, viewable on your browser, will bring together more than 2,000 attendees in an interactive environment.

Europe: flight searches online go up as governments relax Covid lockdowns


Industry News 28th May 2020

Flight searches in Europe have plummeted by more than 90 per cent but there are signs that as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, people are preparing to fly again.

And Greece – which escaped the worst of the virus – has becomre a key target for people researching holidays online, according to digital audience analyst Sojern. 

It examines and reports travel intent by internet use, as measured by searches on airline websites, online travel agencies and metasearch.

This week Sojern reported that while bookings in Europe are down by more than 90 per cent in most countries, Greece is a front runner in the recovery forecast.

Sojern has released its latest findings on how travel trends in Europe are being impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The most recent insights, from data collected on Tuesday (26 May), are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals.

Flight searches and bookings remain down overall, however we are beginning to see positive signals that travel intent is improving in some markets that have announced an easing of travel restrictions. We will look deeper into these countries in the next section.


Global flight searches to key European markets


Global flight bookings to key European markets


European travellers itching to get away to newly-opened markets

In particular, Greece stands out with a major uptick in global flight searches and bookings in the last week, after announcing that Athens will be open to tourists on 15 June, and that the Greek islands will be open as of 1 July.

But there are other countries hoping to attract European travellers for their usually-busy summer season. In addition to the re-opening of Greece, we know that Italy will mostly reopen on 3 June (with some staggered re-openings in places like Sardinia), while Cyprus and Poland will reopen from 15 June. At present, these countries do not appear to have any self-isolation restrictions from arriving travellers.

When looking at future departure months, while we see longer term recovery nearer the end of the year, we are seeing spikes in regional flight searches to these countries in June.


European flight searches to reopening markets

And when we look at bookings to these countries made in the last 14 days, we see that many Europeans have booked travel in July, in line with the reopening of borders. While these spikes are still well down when compared year-over-year, it is a positive sign that we see these upticks in travel searches and bookings so quickly after government announcements. Europeans remain eager to enjoy a summer holiday abroad.


European flight bookings to reopening markets


Government policies impact European travel intent to the UK, but domestic intent is strong

Last week, the UK announced that starting 8 June, arrivals into the UK will need to go into a 14-day self-isolation, which could be a deterrent to those looking to travel to the UK in the coming months. As a result, with the exception of a small spike in June, European travel intent to the UK remains well below that of the European countries who are opening their borders without any self-isolation rules. For example, the small spike in June is still 86% down YOY, whereas for Greece in the same month, travel intent is only down 31% YOY.


European flight searches to UK, future departure months

On a positive note, it does appear that domestic travel within the UK is really starting to improve. We’ve indexed to the first week in April, when Europe was perhaps in the worst phase of the virus, lockdowns were strictest, and travel intent was at its lowest. We now see that searches for travel within the UK are up over 70% from the first week in April. While the government has not lifted restrictions on non-essential travel, it appears that staycations and ‘near-cations’ will be the name of the game once travel is allowed in the UK.


Travel intent to the UK, indexed to 5 April



We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. At the moment, we see that European countries that are starting to reopen their borders without any restrictions are reaping the benefits of growing travel intent, opposed to those countries who are implementing self-isolation restrictions on arrivals. These forward-looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies when the industry starts to recover from this outbreak.


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