After much skepticism, the European Foreign Ministers are seeing a vacation in numerous countries as possible. The travel industry is happy about this but the summer vacation will be different in many places than before.
Yes, summer travel will be possible but there is no clarity for every destination in Europe. This uncertainty has to be tolerated temporarily by holidaymakers who fear for their vacations and travel companies who fear even greater business losses. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) announced after a video conference with counterparts from other European holiday countries an end to the general travel warning currently in effect until June 14.
There will be no vacation without restrictions. “We should not be under the illusion that there can be a quick return to business as usual,” said Maas on Monday. Fewer places in restaurants, obligations for more social distancing in hotel lobbies and limited leisure activities will also shape summer holidays, according to travel companies.
Nevertheless, the travel industry welcomed the prospect of easing. “The return to a specific view of the conditions in the respective countries is a very good approach,” said Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV): This was an “important step in the right direction for holidaymakers and the travel industry to give a perspective of resuming travel. ”
Greece wants to open
There are already the greatest opportunities for package tours to the islands and mainland of Greece. The government in Athens has decided that foreign tourists can fly in again on July 1st and the number of corona infections there also remained low due to a harsh shutdown vis-à-vis abroad. While there were more than 5,000 confirmed cases in the city of Hamburg, there were only 2,800 across Greece.
Italy is also a pioneer in openings and Holidaymakers should be allowed to come from the Schengen area from 3rd of June. However, tour operators will benefit less from this, the proportion of air travelers there is traditionally lower, and many holidaymakers in Italy drive their own car. The country had in the meantime been noticed by very high numbers of deaths compared to other European countries.
The travel group TUI hopes for easing in other countries and the market leader has already announced that it is “ready to start travel activities again soon”. But CEO Fritz Joussen also makes it clear that some things will be different. “New destinations and ropping old destinations, changed travel periods, new offers on site, more digitalization”, is how he describes it with the slogan “For 2020 we will also reinvent vacation”.
This includes disinfecting more and that great entertainment and sports in groups in holiday clubs are canceled. There will hardly be any buffets, and vacationers should check in online if possible instead of at the hotel reception. Joussen also has a wish where the vacation should start again quickly: “The first place will surely be Mallorca.” 4.6 million Germans were on the island in 2019. Competitor DER Touristik sees Spanish islands, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Portugal, Denmark and Austria on the list of possible destinations.
Different views in Spain
Tour operators are likely to agree with hotel operators and regional authorities in Mallorca as they pointed out that there were far fewer Corona cases on Mallorca than on the mainland and ther Spanish islands.
Only the Spanish government in Madrid is still cautious and officially, the state of emergency declared in mid-March still applies in the country. “We cannot allow foreign visitors to enter Spain, while we are curfewing the Spanish people”, said Spanish Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos.
Other foreign ministers from Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, Cyprus and Bulgaria took part in the video conference with Foreign Minister Maas. There will be a another round with other countries on Wednesday and “ee cannot maintain a permanent travel warning for the whole world,” said Maas.
Previously, there was also an exchange with the travel industry on Monday. In their ranks, some had resented the fact that he had recently classified the chances of easing as low. After months of almost no income, the industry is suffering. With the resumption of travel operations, the companies will again receive funds, since then residual payments will be due for previously paid summer vacation.
The losses will still be very high in many places and the restart will mean that hotels may not be fully utilized but umbrellas and loungers at pools and beaches will have to be further apart and many holidaymakers will not regret having more space.
Lufthansa Plans Job Cuts, More COVID Testing to Boost Customer Confidence
With the outlook for international air travel dim due to the coronavirus pandemic, the German airline Lufthansa this week said it expects to operate at 20%-30% of capacity for the remainder of the year and plans to make more staff cuts in addition to the 22,000 full-time positions previously announced.
The move by the airline group comes as a surprise to retired United Airlines pilot and expert, Ross Aimer.
"Lufthansa is one of the strongest airlines in terms of finances and passenger satisfaction, route structure," Aimer told IsaanLive. "So that comes as kind of a surprise. But you can imagine if Lufthansa is facing this horrific dilemma, other airlines that don't have Lufthansa's strengths, can you imagine what happens to them."
One of the unions representing Lufthansa employees criticized plans to cut staff and said it's open for more talks with the airline, which in June received a $10.5 billion (9 billion euro) state bailout.
The airline group says it is spending nearly $584 million in cash every month, and it wants to reduce that amount.
University of Reading Law School's Jorge Guira says it costs that much because it has "to do with the amount of staff, you also have to pay airports to have space in which you can land and you have preferable landing rights, you also have to pay for airplanes."
With fewer people flying, the airline, which also owns Austrian Airlines and Eurowings, said it would put some of its fleet into long-term storage and permanently decommission its seven remaining Airbus A340-600s.
"If you are looking at it pre-COVID, you would see that it's a strong company … the problem is when you have this level of shock … what do you do?" Guira said.
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But cutting costs still leaves at least one dilemma, experts such as Aimer say: What happens after the pandemic when people start traveling again?
"If and when this nightmare is over and passengers have enough confidence coming back, the airlines will find themselves without pilots," he said. "That's one of the hardest things to bring back. … It takes a long time and it's very expensive."
The lack of demand for travel isn't likely to end anytime soon, Guira said.
"There's an expectation in England, for example, that we're in for six hard months. I think most people feel that with the twin-demic, because they expect flu and COVID to rise at the same time," he said.
On Tuesday, global airlines called for airport COVID-19 tests for all departing international passengers to replace the mandatory quarantines, which are blamed for exacerbating the travel slump.
"A systematic testing of all passengers at departure would guarantee that you fly people who are not infected by the virus, or with the risk of being infected which is very, very limited by the sensitivity of the test," said International Air Transport Association head, Alexandre de Juniac.
On Wednesday, Lufthansa announced it plans to expand coronavirus on-the-spot tests for passengers before boarding – a measure it deems essential to reviving global air travel.
EU-China Summit Has Some Germans Rethinking Relations With Beijing
A high-profile virtual summit among Chinese and EU leaders this week has spurred some influential Europeans to rethink their continent’s relationship with Beijing, and especially whether economic considerations have been overemphasized at the expense of human rights.
Monday’s digital get-together — led by Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor and current EU President Angela Merkel — concluded with several vague commitments to “enhance mutual trust, seek mutual benefits on a win-win basis and uphold multilateralism,” according to China’s Xinhua news agency.
But German politicians and news organizations were asking hard questions about Europe’s relationship with China even before the start of the talks, which had been planned pre-pandemic as a gala affair in the German city of Leipzig. The summit also included European Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“How do we position ourselves towards #China? Is China only a huge market or do we as the EU want to play a role in shaping the world order?” Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the Bundestag foreign affairs committee, asked in a tweet hours before the meeting began.
Today the #EUChinaSummit takes place. At its centre sits the question: How do we position ourselves towards #China? Is China only a huge market or do we as the EU want to play a role in shaping the world order? Most important signal towards China would be: We won't be divided.
— Norbert Röttgen (@n_roettgen) September 14, 2020
“Did Germany get too friendly with China?” headlined a feature story published by Deutsche Welle.
While there is a growing consensus in the United States that the policy of “engagement” with China has largely failed, the question is still intensely debated in Germany. Calls for soul-searching — in some cases even a complete overhaul of status quo — appear to be getting louder.
“There are at least as many German lawmakers, German members of parliament that are strongly supportive of human rights, in particular human rights in China, as you’ll find in the U.S. Congress,” said German Green Party legislator Reinhard Buetikofer, head of the EU’s Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China, in a telephone interview.
Gyde Jensen, representing Germany’s northernmost region in the Bundestag, is just such a lawmaker. Considered a rising star, the 31-year-old chair of the parliament’s human rights committee proudly pins a photo of herself with a Hong Kong activist on her Twitter account and believes Germany should keep Huawei out in its 5G plans.
Seit über eineinhalb Jahren fordert die @fdpbt stärkere Einhaltung von Völkerrecht und #Menschenrechten in #Hongkong.
Gestern habe ich @nathanlawkc getroffen und die Auslandsreise von #WangYi Revue passieren lassen.
Unser Fazit: #CCP hat falsch gepokert – 🇪🇺 steht zusammen. pic.twitter.com/gEhXuBlD4P
— Gyde Jensen (@GydeJ) September 3, 2020
Prominent members of the academic community have lent their voices to the cause.
“German governments, both past and present, have consistently prioritized trade with China over other enlightened German national interests, for example democracy and human rights,” said Andreas Fulda, a German social and political scientist who launched a petition in May calling for a reappraisal.
We need to talk about Germany. Let's start with an inconvenient truth: German governments, both past and present, have consistently prioritized trade with China over other enlightened German national interests, for example democracy and human rights. 1/16https://t.co/NcuRAAXGAH
— Andreas Fulda (@AMFChina) May 26, 2020
For too long, foreign trade promotion has topped Germany’s policy configurations toward China, Fulda said in an email interview. Corporate voices have been over-amplified in public discourse while “for decades hyp[ing] the significance of the Chinese market” in order to justify trade and investment “with an authoritarian China.”
China, for its part, likes to remind Europeans of the economic advantages of the relationship. Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Beijing conspicuously announced that the German auto industry continued to reap profits in China, while business interests elsewhere have been pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“German car giants increased their sales in China, with Mercedes-Benz seeing a 21.6 percent increase in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, even as its sales in Europe dropped by 31.5 percent during the first half of the year,” said a September 9 article published in the Global Times, an arm of Chinese state media.
Germany, for its part, declared China as its top single-country export destination in the second quarter of this year, surpassing the United States.
Some Chinese netizens suggested that Beijing’s increased purchases from Germany were part of a strategic move to secure Berlin’s friendship. Otherwise, one wrote, European nations “would all follow the footsteps of the Czech Senate leader” who recently led a delegation to Taiwan.
Senate President Miloš Vystrčil led an 89-member Czech delegation to Taipei on a trip described as honoring the spirit of Vaclav Havel, the first democratically elected Czech president following the disintegration of the Soviet bloc 30 years ago.
“My view is that if we focus on money, we will lose [both] our values and money,” Vystrčil said prior to embarking on the journey.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen increases Corona Measures
Because the number of corona infections in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district has exceeded a critical mark, the Corona measures for the community have been increased for seven days. As the district office announced, people who have visited certain bars on Tuesday evening will be asked to report and be tested. On that evening, according to news reports, infected people had visited the bars, but not all contact persons could be traced.
The number of confirmed new infections with the coronavirus exceeded the critical mark of 50 people per 100,000 population within the last seven days. Due to the current situation, the test center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also open on Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m.
Young people in particular are called upon to be tested, local news reported.
As of today, all restaurants in the Bavarian municipality of Garmisch-Partenkirchen have to close daily at 10 p.m., as it was said. Only a maximum of five people are allowed to meet in public space – this also applies to all restaurants. For private events, the number of participants is limited to a maximum of 50 people in closed rooms or up to 100 people in open air.
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