The EU “ClubMed” countries are about to be in deep trouble.

Graham Charles Lear
5 min readApr 18, 2020

You could be forgiven for missing this news from the EU seeing as we are in the midst of a pandemic

On Wednesday, the EU Commission’s statistics agency (Eurostat) published some figures about the threat posed by Coronavirus to the tourism industry, which underpins many EU economies. Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, France face serious problems, whilst others face calamity in their economies.

The EU’s headline was “Tourism vital to employment in several Member States” and the article started with. “One of the first industries to be affected by the current coronavirus pandemic was the tourism industry. Travel restrictions and widespread cancellations have led to an almost complete halt in international as well as national tourism. “Based on Eurostat estimates, in 2017, there were 2.3 million enterprises in the tourism industries. This was more than one in ten of the EU’s non-financial business economy. The 11.7 million persons employed represented 9% of employment in the non-financial business economy and 22% of the services sector.”

Having analysed the latest report from the EU Commission’s statistics agency and found the figures did not match the agency’s last report on this. Neither did they match the latest EU Parliament report on tourism. I have therefore gone back into the EU’s raw data and I present a simple summary which I believe is more accurate. Where possible I refer to the EU’s words and reports, as I always do.

At least 8.1% of the EU27 business workforce work in tourism

That’s 13.2 million people and I believe the figure to be much higher than that in reality.

Some EU countries are heavily reliant on tourism. The EU says that business sector employment in tourism is :-

26% of business sector jobs in Greece

20% in Cyprus

14% in Ireland

12% in Spain

11% in Italy

In the EU as a whole, the EU Commission says that 9% of the business (not public sector) workforce is working in tourism. I put that figure at 8.1% using official data from the EU, although I believe the true total to be much higher, primarily due to the black economy.

On Wednesday the EU claimed only 11.7 million worked in tourism, but three months ago they gave the figure as 13.6 million. I suspect the true figure is higher than 15 million because of the black economy.

The “ClubMed” countries are about to be in deep trouble

Easter has come and gone. The lost revenues from the absent international tourists on the Champs Elysee, at the Coliseum in Rome, and at the Parthenon in Greece can never be recovered.

Coronavirus restrictions might be starting to be lifted in several EU27 countries, but it will take a long time before the big-spending, long-haul travellers from the USA, Australia, Japan, and other countries start to plan their European holidays again.

Currently, the EU Commission’s position, announced last week, is that international arrivals from abroad should not be allowed for some time yet.

The EU countries whose economies are most reliant on tourism

Tourism is big business for many EU countries and it can represent a significant proportion of their economies. Overall, according to the EU itseThe EU countries whose economies are most reliant on tourism
Tourism is big business for many EU countries and it can represent a significant proportion of their economies. Overall, according to the EU itself.

For many EU countrys, tourism is an economically critical percentage of their GDP.

EU countries received a total of € 563,967,000,000 in receipts from tourism in 2018. That’s nearly £500 billion pounds

  1. Croatia 18.4%
  2. Cyprus 13.9%
  3. Malta 12.7%
  4. Greece 8.7%
  5. Portugal 8.3%
  6. Luxembourg 7.0%
  7. Bulgaria 6.8%
  8. Slovenia 5.9%
  9. Estonia 5.8%
  10. Spain 5.7%
  11. Austria 5.1%
  12. Hungary 4.4%
  13. Latvia 3.1%
  14. Czechia 3.0%
  15. Slovakia 3.0%

The UN blames the UK and Brexit for slower tourism growth last year

According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), 1,461,000,000 tourists arrived in all countries globally in 2019. Despite the EU Parliament claiming that over 50% of worldwide tourists come to Europe, the EU28’s percentage last year was 39.5% (577,200,000 visitors).

The UNWTO says that the United Kingdom is “the most visited destination in Northern Europe.” In its latest report for 2019, it placed the blame for a lower growth rate in tourism worldwide on Brexit before other factors. Here is the opening to their explanation of why global tourism growth fell from 6% to 4% last year:

“Uncertainty surrounding Brexit, geopolitical and trade tensions, and the global economic slowdown, weighed on growth.”

The UNWTO is now run by a Georgian, a Chinaman, and a Spaniard. The UNWTO mentions Brexit five times in this, its latest report on global tourism.

Secretary-general: Mr Zurab Pololikashvili, from Georgia

Executive Director: Mr Zhu Shanzhong, from China

Executive Director: Mr Manuel Halter, from Spain

This goes even further than tourism, although the devastation in that industry will be bad enough

The EU Parliament’s research section stated that in 2018 the effect of tourism on all other sectors of member countries’ economies equates to :-

10.3% of total EU GDP

11.7% of total EU employment

The jobs of 27.3 million EU workers

The tourism sector is so important to the EU economies it is even singled out in the Lisbon Treaty — twice. It also features as part of Jean-Claude Juncker’s strategy for the EU as having a prominent role.

Frankly, the EU itself can’t agree on exact numbers for jobs in the industry, jobs reliant on the industry, and the share of GDP derived from tourism, so I have tried to present a reasonable picture above based on a large amount of research.

One thing is clear. With tourism effectively dead in the water due to Coronavirus, some EU countries are now in big trouble. The public in these countries is simply not being told yet.

Not only that, but the EU’s enthusiasm for tourism in recent years has resulted in this sector having an ever-higher proportion of all EU countries’ total GDP. This has taken place when perhaps the Commission should have been focusing rather more on doing trade deals with the world’s largest economies. this report demonstrates yet again how essential it is for the UK to extricate itself fully from the dysfunctional EU quagmire as soon as possible. There must be NO consideration whatsoever of any extension to the Transition Period.

[ Sources: EU Commission | EU Parliament | UN World Tourism Organisation | IMF | OECD | ONS ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.