1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Coronavirus cripples tourism in Europe

Andreas Kirchhoff | Susan Bonney-Cox
February 26, 2020

Following the outbreak of the disease in northern Italy, the Italian government is forecasting severe economic losses. Tourism is responsible for 13 percent of the Italian gross domestic product.

Italien Mailand Coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Furlan

Italy has put several cities and towns in the country's north on lockdown, banning people from entering or leaving affected areas, suspending public events and closing attractions, such as museums, to the public. The measures effectively put an estimated 100,000 people under quarantine.

Authorities, after canceling a number of top league football matches over the weekend, have ordered Serie A football games to be played to empty stadiums as fans will be asked to stay away. Venice Carnival events ended prematurely and in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto schools and universities are closed until March. In Milan, the fashion week has been shortened and another fair has been postponed until the summer. Milan Cathedral, one of the main tourist attractions, is also closed, as is the famous opera house, La Scala in Milan.

Italy —tourists with face masks in Milan because of the Coronavirus
Tourists with face masks in MilanImage: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Mascolo

The virus is migrating

The virus has long since left the borders of northern Italy. Florence has its first coronavirus patient, an Italian entrepreneur who has returned from Singapore, as has Palermo, where a tourist from Bergamo tested positive for the virus.

From the end of January until the end of April there will be no more direct flights between Italy and China. But all of this has been of little use. Italy has so far suffered the most victims and infected persons in Europe making it a hotspot for the virus.

Thousands of holidaymakers and workers have been quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife after an Italian doctor and his wife tested positive for coronavirus. Austria has also placed an Innsbruck hotel under lockdown when an Italian receptionist was found to have contracted the virus.

And the reaction of the European neighbors to the coronavirus crisis in Italy? Hungary is recommending that its citizens postpone any planned trip to northern Italy, while the Bulgarian airline Bulgaria Air plans to suspend its flights between Sofia and Milan until the end of March.

In Great Britain, concern about the proliferation of cases in northern Italy prompted a dozen UK schools to send home pupils and the teachers who accompanied them on half-term skiing trips in the Italian Alps, telling them to self-isolate for 14 days after their return. The government has asked tourists returning from northern Italy to go into self-isolation if they develop flu-like symptoms.

The coronavirus and tourism in Germany

In Germany, the Federal Foreign Office is refraining from issuing travel warnings. People traveling to Italy should contact the relevant embassies abroad and the Italian Ministry of Health if necessary.

In a sign of growing fears over the economic impact of the outbreak German airline Lufthansa said it was suspending recruitment of new staff, offering existing employees unpaid leave and expanding options for part-time work. "In order to counteract the economic impact of the coronavirus at an early stage, Lufthansa is implementing several measures to lower costs,'' the airline said. Lufthansa, which also owns Swiss and Austrian Airlines, has already suspended flights to and from mainland China until the end of March and scaled back connections to Hong Kong.

So far, the impact on Germany of the coronavirus crisis has been particularly evident in the decline in the number of tourists from China. The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) expects overnight stays of tourists from China to fall by 17 and 25 percent respectively. As tourists from China make a significant contribution to sales, amounting to around €8 billion ($8.7 billion) a year, the losses are likely to have a severe impact on tourism in Germany too.

GNTB press spokesperson Martina Binhack said about the possible absence of Italian tourists in Germany: "It would be irresponsible to make predictions about the absence of Italian tourists in Germany at this stage. Fortunately, we are still in the early season, with the main tourist season being between June and October."