Live from Brussels – Issue 105

Dear reader,

Welcome back to our ‘Live from Brussels’ newsletter! I hope that in the last weeks you had a chance to make the most of the sunny weather and recharge before another exciting year.

This summer season brought a wave of cautious optimism to the hospitality industry. European countries gradually lifted the most severe restrictions, and businesses in the sector could reopen and welcome guests back in all safety. According to a recent survey conducted among HOTREC members, hotels, restaurants and bars performed well, with good average occupancy rates.

Despite these encouraging data and news of increased indexed turnover and growth rates, it is clear that it will be a long time before the impact of Covid-19 is behind us. 60% of HOTREC members believe that significant disruptions will last until at least 2023. 23% of them, instead, anticipate a full recovery by 2024 or later.

As I recently remarked on the occasion of the Bled Strategic Forum 2021, I tend to agree with this more pessimistic forecast. The epidemiological situation is still uncertain, and many hospitality businesses continue to be in survival mode – with the extreme circumstances of late-night entertainment establishments, most of which have been closed since spring 2020. We are not out of the woods yet.

The truth is: reopening is no recovery, and a couple of months back in business will not make up for the impact of over one year of closures and revenue loss. Establishments are still struggling with short term debt and chronic staff and supply shortage. The severe staffing crisis, in particular – while far from being a ‘recent’ problem – has gotten more critical after the pandemic and since digital and sustainable skills are increasingly in demand. 83% of our members perceived it as the number one challenge European hospitality faced over the summer, and 67% of them believe it will be continuing to pose a threat to the sector’s wellbeing.

Cashflow management and extending the government support schemes were also in the top three most urgent short term issues highlighted by our members. Indeed, hospitality businesses have all the potential to continue being viable, ready to invest in sustainability and bring value to the entire European economy, society and culture, but will only be in a position to do so if backed up by extended funding and support schemes until their full recovery. In this issue, we had the pleasure to discuss this and more with MEP Elena Kountoura, whom I sincerely thank for her precious contribution and insight.

To conclude, today’s State of the Union address wrapped up a year of great efforts and outlined the next steps towards the EU recovery and beyond. HOTREC is looking forward to further collaborating with the EU Institutions to achieve the ambitious goals presented by President Von der Leyen and lead the way towards a more resilient, digital, and greener industry.

We hope you will enjoy our newsletter.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Interview



Interview with MEP Elena Kountoura

MEP Elena Kountoura is a Greek politician. First elected member of the European Parliament with the SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance Party in May 2019, she previously served as Minister of Tourism of Greece from January 2015 to May 2019, and has been awarded numerous prestigious awards for her work in the field of tourism. From 2004 to 2019, she has been elected six times as a Member of the Parliament in Greece.

Competition



Draft competition rules on vertical agreements fail to address unfair restrictions for hoteliers

The European Commission published a draft revised Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) alongside draft guidelines on 9 July 2021, opening the drafts to comment from stakeholders.

Digital



European Commission hints at specific initiative for establishing and enforcing STR rental rules

Closing the regulatory enforcement gap for short-term rentals (STR), rentals have counted among the key debates held on the Digital Services Act (DSA), with discussions on the adoption of this future Regulation in full swing in the European Institutions.

Live from the network



European Economic and Social Committee hearing: tourism SMEs after Covid-19

On 7 September 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organised a hearing on “tourism SMEs after Covid-19”. Participants included entrepreneurs, the EU Institutions (e.g. Ms. Marie Hélène Pradines, Head of Unit DG GROW, and MEP Cutajar) and some representatives of the private sector.


Bled Strategic Forum 2021: the future of European tourism

On 1 September 2021, the Bled Strategic Forum took place in Slovenia: a well-known tourism-focused event that every year gathers international experts.

Statistics



Q2 2021 turnover statistics show return to activity but no definitive recovery for hospitality sector

Indexed turnover and growth rates for the hospitality sector in Q2 2021 by Eurostat leave room for cautious optimism but also show that the sector remains far from achieving full recovery to pre-Covid levels.

Tourism



European Commission adopts equivalence decisions for more countries with EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate

Over the first half of August, the European Commission adopted five equivalence decisions for Covid-19 certificates that were in force in North Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, the Vatican and San Marino.


Council updates EU Covid safe travel list

Between August and September, the Council updated the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted, following the Recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU.


Lockdown measures eased throughout Europe over the course of summer 2021

As the most restrictive measures affecting the hospitality sector were largely lifted across Europe over the course of summer, most hospitality establishments, with the notable exception of nightclubs, were able to cater for guests both within their premises and on terraces.


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