EU governments are being urged to better co-ordinate their Covid-19 recovery efforts by adopting a harmonised approach to lifting or reinstalling restrictions and safety measures.

The call from the European Travel Commission (ETC) is comes as tourism confidence plummets to a record low across the continent.

In a sideswipe to the UK government, ETC also insists that any potential new measures should be local and science-based, avoiding imposing blanket country bans or quarantines, and should be communicated to travellers well before their travel dates.

Any measures should take into account the latest epidemiological developments across Europe.

While many Europeans are keen to travel again and enjoy summer 2020, they don’t have the confidence to book a trip given the lack of clarity around border barriers, availability of transportation, along with the health and safety protocols in their chosen destination, according to the ETC.

The plea comes as global searches and air bookings to Europe are down on last year’s levels for July at 67% and 72% respectively.

The first two weeks of July saw a slight increase in air bookings of 6% for intra-European travel over June.

However, as the month progressed, this positive trend faded with flight bookings dropping again. Similarly, searches picked-up only slightly, according to data sourced for ETC by travel intent analysis firm Sojern.

“These fluctuations demonstrate people’s simultaneous eagerness and hesitation about travelling in these uncertain times,” ETC said. “The longer this uncertainty surrounding travel rules and restrictions between countries continue, the harder it will be for consumers to regain travel confidence and for the industry to see a stable recovery.”

European interest for domestic travel, as expressed in flight searches and bookings, remained very low in July with year-on-year drops of 37% and 67% respectively.

ETC added: “While the current situation does not look encouraging with actual flight bookings being very low, an upward trend in searches for domestic flights has been recorded in the second half of July, which is indicative of people’s enthusiasm to travel within their countries, meaning it is now more critical than ever for a coherent co-ordinated EU response.”

ETC executive director Eduardo Santander said: “As we have been warning for several months, effectively coordinating and aligning responses to the evolving epidemiological situation at both EU and national level is the only solution to saving the travel sector in Europe. 

Nonetheless, there has instead been a very fragmented picture with inconsistent and constantly changing national approaches. This data clearly shows that significant work still needs to be done when it comes to harmonising the approach that member states are taking, before any recovery is feasible.”