Schengen and North American Market in 2021

US and Canada industry Leaders warn of dramatic loss if EU cannot provide roadmap to open external border

Normally, North America is by far the most important origin market for Europe, delivering approximately $70 billion of spending every year. In 2020, Europe saw a 90-95% decline in this business, in what was the biggest collapse in volume since records began.

Much of this business was transferred into 2021, with the bulk of it planning to arrive in the period May to October. The continued uncertainty as to when they may be able to travel is placing this in jeopardy. US and Canadian clients need to cancel with 90 days’ notice, so early high season arrivals in Europe are about to disappear.

“The number one question our tour operator members ask is about the borders reopening;” said Terry Dale, CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) “In fact, 14 of the top 20 international destinations visited by our members are European, according to our PwC study. It’s imperative to recognize that the recovery of the travel industry is central to the overall health of the global economy and USTOA strongly encourages swift collaboration between governments to develop reciprocal plans to reopen borders. Communication of those plans – based on virus rates, vaccination rates, and health protocols – will boost consumer confidence and encourage travel spending that will impact tens of thousands of jobs in the US and abroad. “

“While appreciating the uncertainty of this pandemic,” said Brett Walker, Chairman of the Canadian Tour Operators Association (CATO), “there must be an immediate, coordinated, and fully transparent tourism recovery plan, highlighting clear and concise safety measures and protocols to support the critical need for both a health and economic recovery. The next 90 days will likely determine if there any safe and meaningful return of North America travellers to Europe this summer. The greater and the longer the uncertainty, the more likely Europe will see the same decline of North American spending, between 90-95%, for 2021 as was the case in 2020.”

“What potential visitors need” said Tom Jenkins of ETOA “is a clear indication of when border restrictions are likely to be lifted, and under what conditions. This is business which our members have on their books. The clients who wanted to travel to Europe still want to do so. The risks they pose, which are already very low as compared with the general population in destination, (are diminishing by the day. Yet no indication is being given if Europe wants them to return this year.

This business represents sustenance in time of famine. It is export income, not domestic spend. Europe is viewed as single destination by long-haul visitors: it is what they think of and is their goal when planning a trip. So there has to be a co-ordinated response from the Schengen area to define what it takes for business to resume. Billions of dollars are at risk, and not just this year: Europe being seen as ‘too difficult’ is a marketing boost for alternative destinations. But this is more than money: it is the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people that stand in jeopardy.”

ETOA will be running a short webinar on this topic on 11th February. For further information and to register, please click here

ETOA is the trade association for better tourism in Europe. We work to enable a fair and sustainable business environment, so that Europe remains a competitive and appealing place to live, work and visit. With over 1200 members representing most areas of the industry, we are a powerful voice at local, national and European levels. We welcome a range of tour operators and European suppliers from global brands to independent businesses. Contact: