Traveling During COVID-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the worst nightmare for the entire world. Societies around the world have seen significant disruptions in the their economies. The tourism industry especially faced a terrible halt as people simply stopped traveling.
During the second quarter of 2020 tourism industry collapsed needing huge government grants to stay in business and keep people employed. From tourism destinations in Europe to the Americas, it seemed that every destination could be found barren of tourists in the wake of a public health emergency.
According to the reports from United Nations, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported that partial and complete lockdowns imposed all over the world in response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a 98% fall in international tourism in May 2020.
Furthermore, the report mentioned that this downfall in tourism also resulted in a $320 billion loss in international tourism revenue, as 300 million tourists stayed home greatly affecting tourism worldwide. The COVID-19 loss has been reported to be three times more horrendous than the Global Economic Crisis in 2008.
Millions of people associated with the tourism industry have found their livelihood in jeopardy and living a life full of hardships.
Tourism Policy Responses To COVID-19
What Are The Experts Saying?
This dramatic fall in tourism has put tourists and the people associated with the tourism industry in shock. No one has ever seen these coming. Let’s see how the world tourism is responding to this significant threat.
Responding To The Impact Of Coronavirus
The world has already seen how the covid-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism industry and economy. According to OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted and has resulted in a 60% decline in international tourism in the past six months 2020.
Further added that this decline could reach and cross the par of 80% if the situation doesn’t get to normalized till December 2020. The impacts have been severe and have disrupted the entire ecosystem of the tourism industry. Bringing back things to normal and re-opening will require new approaches and strategies.
Certainly, tourism can’t be banned for more months to come as people such as the workers on airports, resorts, hotels, travel guides, restaurants, etc. make a livelihood from this sector. Also, governments are making a massive amount of revenues from the tourism industry.
The responses, approaches, and strategies that are in the process are mentioned;
- Travel restrictions can only be lifted if proper measures are being taken. Raising the limits from international travel is a risk, but it is a step that must be taken to bring things back on track.
- Lifting the travel restriction with proper safety protocols is a must-have approach. Safety protocols include complete sanitization everywhere, e.g., airports, airplanes, and hotels. Tourists and travelers will have to present recent covid-19 test reports. Tourists must wear masks, and proper social distancing must be practiced.
- Restoring the confidence of the tourists will not be an easy task. It can be done by building trust and confidence with new safety initiations.
- Tourists must be provided with applications and monitoring so that public health isn’t compromised, and the revenue-generating cycle keeps on spinning.
- Innovation must be prioritized for tourism spots as the dynamics of the world have been changed. In this regard, the outlook of the tourism industry must be revised. New and proper plans must be enforced, restructuring of tourist destinations concerning the covid-19 is paramount, and building trust among the tourists are some of the approaches that can be taken to overcome the new challenges.
An Unprecedented Crisis For The Tourism Economy
The 2020 Covid-19 shutdown has been utterly unprecedented for the tourism industry and economy. Both international tourism and domestic tourism have significantly been impacted. According to McKinsey & Company, the global tourism economy weighs around $9 trillion, which is surely in great threat to collapse.
I have mentioned that international tourism has been impacted; this also resulted in a 60% decline in revenue generation. Domestic tourism has effects no less than international tourism.
According to OECD, the countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the other 29 countries) have seen a 75% decline in domestic tourism.
Approximate 10% of global GDP was contributed by tourism in 2019. Although the effects have been dreadful, there’s still a way, because every circumstance comes with a choice. What could be done from the government’s perspective to cope with the situation?
- Possibly, by building a tourism nerve center to streamline the public and private interfaces.
- Financing mechanisms have been disturbed and impacted. So experimenting with new methods can lead to positive ends.
- Restructuring protocols that ensure a transparent, consistent, and undisturbed communication channel.
- The tourism sector needs transformation – a Digital Transformation to be precise. Enabling digital and analytical transformation is of utmost importance.
An Immense Impact On The Global Tourism Ecosystem
As already discussed, Covid-19 impacts are immense, and the global ecosystem of the tourism industry has collapsed. Various sectors are greatly impacted, and millions of employees worldwide are affected.
Some of the industry-centric impacts have been discussed below;
Travel restrictions have greatly hampered the tourist activities around the world. Because of the partial and complete lockdowns and travel restrictions World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimated that in the early four months of 2020, tourism dropped to 60%.
Millions of flights have been canceled globally. Governments made it clear to the airlines that refunds must be made to all the passengers, which has led to some airlines’ collapse.
In the beginning, 10% of the flights were canceled as there was hope that the situation might get under control. But as months went by, 80% of the flight movements were restricted in Europe, America, Asia, and the Middle East in May 2020.
This resulted simply; no flights mean no traveling.
Governments all over the world put bans on public gatherings and lockdowns of different kinds. All these steps were taken to safeguard people. Citizens were appealed to practice social distancing and stay at home.
Cruise ships also get affected as people who prefer voyaging have been exposed to the deadly virus. For example, a Norwegian cruise ship named MS Roald Amundsen had 41 passengers and crew that got positive for Covid-19, according to BBC.
This led to the downfall of the cruise industry as well. Later that month, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was further notified to stop the operations in response to this virus’s unprecedented situation. CDC published the No Sail Order on 14th March 2020 to prevent any other mishaps.
With the aviation industry heavily impacted, the focus of tourists shifted from airways to railways. This could be a possible chance for the railway industry to boost and generate revenue. But either by train or by plane, the concerns of the travelers regarding the Covid-19 grow stronger.
A survey was conducted by UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland), which stated that 4000 people of Italy, France, Germany, China, and Spain agreed to spend two to four hours in train but are willing to travel.
4. Car Rentals
Travelers don’t tend to stop and are always looking for new ways to get on the expeditious rides. As with bans on air travel and to some extent for railways, the new idea was to ride through rental cars or private cars domestically.
But rental cars can be a potential threat as nobody knows who drove it the last time. Domestic traveling is getting potential attention and is accessible because of the road links.
Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of the Infectious Diseases at the University of Buffalo, said that this deadly virus transmits through the respiratory system. The chances of getting the virus increase when you travel in that rented car or with the driver.
But the tour can be made safe with knowing how to road trip safely using precautionary measures.
5. Tour Operators
- The cash flow stopped and resulted in a great drop-in business.
- No government support for these people has doubled their problems.
- Labor cost was another issue as to compete and stand with that is challenging.
Hotels are dependent on travelers. As tourism and traveling are banned, hotels are terribly hit and almost barren since the start of this pandemic.
The hotel industry workers are also facing substantial financial setbacks because of the laid-offs from the jobs. Luxury hotels contribute around 40% in the economy, but with this downfall, the economies are also facing huge setbacks.
7. Travel Insurance
With travel ceasing, the tourists do not opt the travel insurance. Thus the travel insurance industry is also magnificently impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the people traveling with the little means are still opting for the insurance plans, their quarantined period can be covered if they contract the virus.
The boom in domestic travel geared the insurance providers to develop new policies to manage the ongoing circumstances.
How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Affected Tourism for Travelers and the General Public
Sic ways the virus has affected tourism:
1. Travel Bans And Restrictions
Tourism has been hit extremely hard, with tens of millions of jobs at risk. This industry is considered the most job-intensive sector, but this sector is devastated at the current times.
Travel bans and restrictions are imposed considering public health and safety.
Already the infected cases have crossed the 25 million mark, and deaths have hit around a million. So to ensure the unstoppable death rate, traveling was ceased until the situation got under control.
2. Abiding By The SOPs For Traveling
The international aviation has set some SOPs that are to be abiding by strictly. Safety is paramount, and nothing is before health.
SOPs include wearing surgical/N-95 masks, social distancing in the aircraft, checking the travelers’ body temperature, sanitizing at each point, and many others. All these are for the safety of passengers.
3. Staying Updated On Global Trend Forecast
Global trends are rapidly changing, and to cope with them, the travelers and tourists must follow the latest news and contents to stay updated. These updated forecasts would help you in evaluating the decision and allow you to plan accordingly.
4. Preference Of Local Travelling
Local or domestic traveling has already solidified the grounds as soon as international tourism ceased. But, domestic traveling doesn’t mean that you are free to do whatever you want, and no virus can harm you.
Select and plan your travel accordingly. If the area/city/country you are visiting has been the epicenter of the infection, then you must plan consequently.
5. Limited Crowds At Tourist Spots
Tourism has been in the downfall and with limited countries allow tourists to come. The crowds are filtered and limited at famous spots. Another reason is that people are being monitored to maintain social distancing and are allowed to visit limitedly.
6. Accepting The New Norm
The new norms in the tourism industry have been introduced as countries are not uplifting the bans on traveling. Still, the prohibitions are not entirely lifted, and new policies and rules have been implemented.
Some of the new norms in the traveling industry have been as follows;
- Screening is touchless and mandatory.
- Masks are mandatory all the time.
- Social distancing has to be implemented, and no one is allowed to sit together.
Conclusion – Road to Recovery
A global pandemic has made alterations in every walk of life. But when we talk about tourism and the traveling industry, the results are shocking as this industry has been heavily impacted.
The closures and lockdowns are just enforced to protect human lives as the rising death toll was showing that there would be no stop to this, but with the rapid actions and decisions, the death toll has been controlled.
I as everyone else in the world hope that everything goes to normal as it used to be. May God bless our world.