Next 90 Days Crucial to Salvage 2021 European Travel Season for Canadians: CATO

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The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), the region’s trade association, says the EU needs a solution for welcoming back leisure travellers from North America, including Canadians, or it risks losing billions of dollars again in 2021.

Brett Walker, Chairman of the Canadian Tour Operators Association (CATO), told Forbes an “immediate, coordinated, and fully transparent tourism recovery plan” for Europe is crucial, adding that the next 90 days will likely determine if there any safe and meaningful return of North America travellers to the continent this summer.

Brett Walker, Chairman of the Canadian Tour Operators Association (CATO)

“The greater and the longer the uncertainty, the more likely Europe will see the same decline of North American spending, between 90-95 per cent for 2021 as was the case in 2020,” he said.

Canadians, Americans and Mexicans are a crucial driver of Europe’s tourism economy, bringing in $90 billion annually. Without this vital infusion, the bloc is suffering. France alone is expected to lose an estimated $58 billion in tourism revenue since the pandemic began, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Germany and Italy are expected to lose around $50 billion each.

Open Jaw followed up with Walker for the ‘Canadian content’ version of the story.

All told, Walker says he is “optimistic” Canadians will see a European travel season this year, although he cautions it is likely to be shorter than normal and acknowledged that Canadians are not permitted non-essential travel abroad yet anyway.

“I believe when the EU opens its borders it will not be conditional on others doing the same, although reciprocity goes a long way in these sorts of affairs. From recent reports, it appears most likely the opening of the EU and the Schengen region more broadly, will be based on the screening of each individual through one or more passes (e.g. Common Pass) – all with the same standards,” he told Open Jaw.

If Europe is out, don’t expect tour operators and Canadian travellers to wholly shift their focus to travel within Canada this year, Walker cautions.

“There will be some travel companies that will be able to pivot and focus on travel within Canada and for Canadians, but that is not feasible for most tour operators or even attractions/destinations within Canada. For example, more than 90 per cent northern tourism as well as Indigenous tourism is made up of international travellers,” Walker says.

“Many CATO operators that offer flights to sun destinations on a significant scale cannot pivot to ‘east to west’ travel to destinations within Canada and expect anything close to the same volume.”

Anna Kroupina


Anna's day starts at 5:30 a.m. each morning to scour daily travel news headlines to find the most relevant stories for Canadian travel advisors. She contributes to writing the daily news and covers events. The Alberta Rockies, Hawaii and France's Provence region are among her favourite destinations. She's a proud cat mom and a terrible snowboarder.

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