Investing.com – Travel and leisure stockholders in particular should feel as if they have been denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity in recent weeks due to the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. If only there was a judge who could roll on the grass, amplifying their pain…
Things were looking very good until a month ago when Delta Undercover (first identified in India) began becoming the dominant strain of the virus in the UK. Delta, which is transmitting 40% more than previous strains, increased the number of new cases in the UK from just 2,000 a day in late May to more than 22,000 a day last week. So the government has postponed for a month the full reopening of the hospitality and leisure sector, but still hopes to lift the remaining restrictions on July 19.
But developments in Great Britain sounded the alarm on the continent, which was preparing to receive millions of British tourists in the coming summer season. In the past week alone, Portugal, Spain and Germany have imposed new restrictions on arrivals from the UK severe enough to scare away a large proportion of tourists. Furthermore, the negative flow of information about the British ancestry is likely to leave people from other countries in doubt about traveling to places where they might bump into the British.
International Airlines Group (LON :), owner of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, was down 15% in the last month, while Tui (LON :), the continent’s largest tour operator, fell by a similar amount. Shares of Tui fell 4.8% on Tuesday alone after the company was forced to increase the size of its latest convertible bond issuance by 190 million euros ($226 million).
Spain’s Meliá Hotels (MC:) is down more than 10% this week after Madrid tightened access rules for Brits, while Dufry (SIX :), the Swiss owner of duty-free, is down about 12%.
However, the situation in this sector could be much worse. German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted at last week’s EU summit on a general tightening of restrictions on arrivals from the United Kingdom. These measures met with effective resistance from southern European countries, which are a) more susceptible to the effects of tourism, and b) distrust German power.
There is justification for a milder and more nuanced approach: almost everyone over the age of 50 in the UK is now fully vaccinated, which significantly reduces the risk of transmission. Vaccination rates also increased among the small group as it became clear that this would be a prerequisite for a desirable summer vacation. This is particularly important given the huge role crowded clubs in Ibiza and Mallorca played in reviving the virus across Europe last summer.
But there are also reasons why the continent is afraid. The UK has avoided a simultaneous increase in hospital admissions in the delta region with a relatively advanced vaccination campaign. About 50% of all British adults are fully vaccinated and vaccinations have fulfilled their promise to significantly reduce serious illness. But in Germany, the similar proportion is only 36%. In France and Italy only 30%. Therefore, the risks of reloading hospitals in these countries are greater.
In both cases, the delta variant will appear on the continent sooner or later. It already accounts for 20% of cases in France, up from 10% a week ago. This variant now accounts for more than 50% of cases recorded in Europe’s largest economy, Lothar Wheeler, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said Tuesday.
In other words, if the pattern prior to the Covid-19 pandemic is any indication, it does not appear that this resumption of trading will regain its momentum anytime soon.