A leading EU official on Tuesday called for a special summit to help Europe's crucial tourism sector, which has been thrown into crisis by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the EU's GDP and 12 percent of jobs, has ground to a halt because of travel and lockdown restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

With tourism-dependent southern states such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta hit particularly hard, the EU's internal market commissioner Thierry Breton suggested an emergency summit be held in September or October.

The summit would allow the 27 EU states to "consider the future together and build a roadmap towards sustainable, innovative and resilient European tourism," Breton told members of the European Parliament during a videoconference.

His spokesman later said the summit, which would bring together industry, governments and EU officials, could even take place as early as June -- at the start of the continent's peak summer holiday season.

Breton also warned the coronavirus crisis -- which has hit Spain and Italy worst in the EU -- could open the door to outside countries trying to snap up European travel firms on the cheap.

The sector "must protect itself from aggressive investment strategies from non-European countries," he said.



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