"The Covid-19 crisis has put the sector under severe economic pressure and has had a particularly severe impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up the vast majority of businesses active in tourism, and we must therefore act without delay in order to provide the necessary financial support to alleviate the lack of liquidity of many tourism businesses, to prevent major job losses and to help the sector out of the recession," said Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs.

Speaking on behalf of the Portuguese presidency of the Council in a debate on "Saving the summer tourist season - EU support for the hotel sector," at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, she noted that the discussion was "timely" as it was "a critical moment to take decisive action in favour of tourism, just before the start of the summer season in Europe.

"We must take into account that, for the tourism ecosystem, recovery from the crisis will take longer than for other sectors, since a large number of companies - as I said, mostly SMEs - were not prepared," added Ana Paula Zacarias.

To enable this recovery, the Secretary of State also urged the European assembly to move forward on the creation of the digital laissez-passer proving recovery, testing or anti-covid-19 vaccination, a day before MEPs discuss the European Commission's proposal for the digital green certificate, a step after which talks with member states begin.

"The European Parliament has an important role to play in approving, together with the Council, the regulation on the digital green certificate to facilitate the free movement of travellers within the EU, as soon as possible and in safe conditions", said Ana Paula Zacarias.

At stake is the legislative proposal presented by the EU executive in mid-March regarding the creation of a bilingual document and with QR code that should come into force by June to allow the resumption of free movement within the EU in the summer.

In mid-April, EU member states approved a mandate for the Portuguese presidency of the Council to negotiate the proposal with the European Parliament.

On Thursday, 29 April, it will be up to the European assembly to vote and adopt its negotiating position, after which interinstitutional negotiations can begin.

"I am confident that this certificate, if properly equipped with the necessary guarantees of non-discrimination and personal data protection, will greatly contribute to this goal," she said.

On travel restrictions, the Secretary of State defended a "coordinated approach to travel restrictions within the EU and in relation to third countries".

Equally crucial for the recovery of tourism is, according to Ana Paula Zacarias, the achievement of "rapid progress in reversing the epidemiological situation and reducing the spread of coronavirus, accelerating the vaccination process.

"This requires increasing the production capacity of vaccines and ensuring their availability in all Member States, which will result in a faster resumption of safe mobility across Europe," she told MEPs.

The tourism and travel sectors account for about 10 percent of European GDP.