BRUSSELS - LOSSES to Europe's tourism sector caused by the ash cloud from Iceland could touch one billion euros (S$1.81 billion), according to a preliminary estimate by the European Commission on Wednesday.
'I take note that the initial estimates of the loss to the sector touch the threshold of one billion euros,' said European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani in a statement.
He was speaking after a video conference with European tourism ministers and officials. The statement said it was too early to gauge the effcts of the crisis on hotels as well as tour operators.
Tour operators had told the commission they had spent about 388 million euros to repatriate about 1.6 million clients stranded overseas since April 15. Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano erupted on April 14, spreading an ash cloud across much of northern and western Europe and triggering the biggest disruption to aviation since World War II.
The international airline industry body, IATA, said the shutdown cost carriers some US$1.7 billion ($2.3 billion) and called on governments to pick up at least part of the cost, angered by their handling of the crisis.
Eurocontrol, the continent's air traffic control coordinator, said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe had been cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.