‘The ‘perfect storm’ for European SMEs: HOTREC and EU stakeholders discuss SMEs after COVID-19
Ms. Marie Audren, Director General of HOTREC, participated as a speaker together with Ms. Birgit Weidel, Head of Unit at DG GROW (European Commission), MEP Ivan Štefanec (Slovakia, EPP), President of SME Europe, and Mr. Geert Vermeerch, CEO of COLAC. Mr. Dave Keating, journalist at Euractiv, moderated the discussion.
Thanks to this event, we had the change to once again stress how difficult a situation hospitality establishments – 90% of them SMEs and micro-enterprises employing less than 10 people – are experiencing due to COVID-19.
“The hospitality sector is facing the hardest crisis it has ever faced. It’s really unprecedented” said Ms. Audren. She later emphasised the economic and cultural value that hospitality holds in Europe: a major pillar of the tourism ecosystem counting (before the crisis) over 2.5 million workers, most of them under 25 years of age.
“The recovery will be really long, will be slow and we don’t expect any return to “normal” before 2023. We will need the continued support from the European Commission and the Member States to help these companies regain their capacity to trade and to help restore guests confidence” continued Ms. Audren. “What I really find difficult for us right now is the lack of clarity and the uncertainty. This yo-yo, this in-and-out of restrictions is very difficult for our SMEs“.
All speakers also agreed on the critical role that upskilling and reskilling and the digital and green transition will have on SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector. Ms. Audren had previously discussed her views on the topic in an article written in collaboration with FoodDrinkEurope.
A sincere thanks to Euractiv and FoodDrinkEurope for involving us in such an important and constructive discussion and for the valuable opportunity to brainstorm with experts in the sector on the future of our SMEs.