April 29, 2020 / 4:47 PM / a month ago

German tourist sector dismayed as Berlin extends travel warning

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany might be easing some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, but the government tamped down any hopes in the tourism sector that it might relax holiday guidance when it extended its warning against worldwide travel until June 14 on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A diner is seen empty at Frankfurt Airport as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Frankfurt, Germany, April 13, 2020. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

The decision came days after neighbouring Austria - which has suggested a staggered resumption of tourism, initially allowing German visitors in - lifted coronavirus quarantines at three of its top ski resorts last week.

“We are not so far with fighting the virus and the development of the pandemic that we can recommend carefree travel,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told journalists.

“People won’t be able to spend a holiday as they usually know it on full beaches or in full mountain huts or whatever.”

Turkey’s tourism minister said at the beginning of this month that he expected flights to return to normal by the end of June, while Greece says it hopes to welcome back tourists from July.

The German foreign ministry first issued a warning on March 17 against all unnecessary tourist travel abroad until May 3. The extension is a new blow to the ailing tourism industry as Germans are among the world’s most prolific travellers.

Many of Germany’s first coronavirus cases were among tourists who fell ill after visiting the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl.

The German association for tour operators said they had already lost over 4.8 billion euros ($5.21 billion)in sales up until the end of April and the decision would mean that the sector urgently needed targeted state aid.

“If politicians do not act quickly and purposefully, many businesses will be on the brink of collapse by the summer,” warned Norbert Kunz, head of the German tourism association.

The sector wants to be allowed to issue mandatory vouchers rather than reimbursing customers for cancelled trips.

Germany’s TUI, the world’s biggest tourism group, last month agreed a 1.8 billion euro ($1.99 billion) loan commitment from state lender KfW to help it cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

($1 = 0.9216 euros)

Reporting by Klaus Lauer, Alexander Ratz, Andreas Rinke, Christian Kraemer and Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Pravin Char

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