SUMMER holidays in Europe are at risk due to 'more dangerous and transmissable' Covid strains, according to analysis by Morgan Stanley.
The continent could be looking at another lost summer tourist season as COVID-19 cases are rising and the vaccine rollout has been so slow, threatening a major hit to the economies of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
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The study said: "Europe's high cases and slow vaccine drive could lead to a late reopening, putting a second summer at risk which would exacerbate the north-south divide and could trigger further policy easing."
Last year, Europe was able to save some of its summer season with the help of restrictions and hot weather that lowered transmission rates from spring.
But, the analysis added: "We are somewhat sceptical that this can happen again this year, given the emergence of new strains, which appear to be more transmissible and dangerous, and have driven an acceleration in cases recently in the euro area, e.g. in France and Italy."
Morgan Stanley said the south of Europe would see the biggest impact from another lost summer as tourism accounts for over 6 per cent of European GDP and nearly 8 per cent of employment but much more than that in tourism-dependent countries, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Analysis experts for the bank said: "Spain, which was already one of the worst performers in 2020, looks particularly vulnerable, based on our analysis."
The number of daily Covidcases in Spain has decreased considerably in the last month – February had highs of 107,000 new daily cases, but yesterday the country reported just 2,784 new cases.
In comparison, France reported more than 38,000 daily cases yesterday and had 23,000 new cases.
Spain's tourism minister Reyes Maroto is confident about opening up to visitors from as early as May.
She has said that the country could start using the vaccine passport in May, when the international tourism fair FITUR is due to take place in Madrid.
Meanwhile, Jet2 has told Majorcan hoteliers to prepare for the “massive arrival” of British holidaymakers from June 2.
Palma-based travel magazine Preferente is reporting the travel company has said it expects the holiday season in the Balearics to kick off properly at the start of June.
Greece is similarly optimistic about opening for holidaymakers, with plans to open its doors to tourists from May 14.
Portugal's tourism minister said today that the country would gladly welcome British tourists from May 17 if they could show proof of having had the vaccine, or a negative test for younger travellers.
Brits are currently banned from taking holidays overseas, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reveal the date international travel will restart on April 12.
There are hopes the PM will allow UK tourists to head on holidays abroad from as early as May 17, but it's thought that June 21 is a more likely date.
British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Thursday that he was going on holiday in the United Kingdom and that it was too early to speculate on whether or not foreign holidays would be allowed this summer.
Jenrick told LBC radio that he hoped there would be summer holidays but that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was looking at the issue of summer holidays abroad.
"I will be going on holiday within the UK," he said. Asked if people would be able to have a proper summer holiday he replied: "I hope so."
Airlines and travel groups are desperate to resume some kind of normal summer holiday season this year after COVID-19 restrictions left many fighting for survival.
Irene Hays, the boss of Britain's largest independent travel agent, Hays, also said on Thursday that there were encouraging signs that international travel would resume.
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