Written by Hessah Alajlan
Hessah Alajlan is doing a Master in Tourism, hospitality and event management at The university of Queensland. You can follow up with Hessah Alajlan via LinkedIn here.
After the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the world experienced setbacks in various sectors. But no other sector was more affected than the tourism industry. Naturally, as more and more countries closed their doors to foreigners, the past few years were especially unfortunate for the tourism industry. And for that tourism related employment was at an all-time low.
The most efficient step to ensure a better future for the tourism sector is building up policies. Effective employment policies can save a nation from such disasters and ensure its citizens’ safety and overall economic well-being. If such policies were present in the first place, most countries wouldn’t have to struggle to recover from this loss.
A crisis can occur at any time. But intelligent people always plan ahead. A similar approach has to be taken here because a proper strategic recovery plan will ensure that the tourism sector doesn’t take any long-term damage. Let’s have look the matter in detail.
Impact of tourism employment crisis
Tourism is the fastest growing and leading income source of so many countries. Public economic stability is the most crucial influence of tourism demand. The host country’s environmental, political, and overall socio-economic conditions also play an important part.
However, the general concept among the people is that tourism doesn’t fill the crucial needs of a particular society. So, they don’t prefer spending on the sector’s development. This is a pretty obvious thing.
If any issues occur in one’s schedule, holiday plans are always canceled. And if there’s any threat to the security or well-being of the tourists, then the authorities won’t hesitate to halt the functions of the entire sector.
That’s why the tourism sector is primarily affected by calamitic world events. If any particular region faces a health hazard, the tourism sector gets shut down almost immediately. Halting down this sector ensures lesser interaction from people outside that region. So, it prevents more people from getting affected.
And, because of this pandemic, people who earned their living off of the tourist spots had difficulty managing their expenses. Many workers in tourism sectors were suspended for an indefinite time. Moreover, there were no substitute jobs offered to them by which they could at least pass their days normally. They struggled a lot and suffered until they found some other work to pay their bills.
To avoid these kinds of situations in the future, specific measures have to be taken. This will help control the political, economic, social, health, or environmental problems that occur at a regional or global scale during a crisis. With proper planning organizations in the tourism industries will be better prepared to withstand or at least better recover from such setbacks.
Effect of COVID-19 on tourism
2020 was a disastrous year for the entire world. Every single country faced significant setbacks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything was shut down to minimize the community spread of the coronavirus.
Because of this, many countries had to overcome difficult situations and adjust to the ongoing global problem. Here’s a glimpse of the overall international impact of Covid-19 on tourism.
On 23 March 2020, a combined drop of around USD 1.8 billion occurred in Chile’s domestic and international tourism sector. It came down about 20.4% when compared to 2019. Astonishingly, all of this money is worth 5.7 million trips. And all of this happened because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Also, as the pandemic started expanding in Chile in March 2020, the international arrivals fell by around 32.5% from 2019.
In Finland, the demand for tourism declined to about 60-70% in May 2020. And it was equivalent to about 10-11 billion euros. All of the calculations were done from the overall monthly seasonality of the tourism sector of Finland and how it was affected by this pandemic.
To that end, Statistics Finland collaborated with the MEAE (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment). They came up with some forecasts that helped their government to handle the situations more smartly.
Korea came up with two plans to handle the impact of COVID-19.
One was to shut down the tourism sector for four months. And then start the recovery from July. If they did so, they’d receive around 10.2 million international tourists, which is approximately 41.7% compared to 2019, and get USD 13.3 billion which is almost 25.3% compared to 2019.
In the other scenario, they’d shut down the sector for six months. The recovery would start from September. This will give them 7.5 million international tourists and USD 10.3 billion in revenue, which is about 57.1% and 42.1% respectively.
The VisitBritain forecasted a model on the short-term impact on the UK’s domestic and international tourism sector. The sheer uncertainty of the tourism sector that is reflected in the statistics was alarming.
In April, the inbound tourist counts declined to around 54%. That’s around GBP 15.1 billion in monetary terms. There was also a significant drop of 24% in visitor spending, which is equal to about GBP 22.1 billion. You can be sure that the absolute value was much greater than the forecasted loss.
Assessment of the effect of COVID-19 on tourism
The common thing in all of these situations was that the entire tourism sector had been shut down for months. In some countries, it was shut down for almost a year. However, the eagerness to travel quickly recovered when the authorities started to get everything under control.
During this challenging time, 9 out of 10 people were living in countries that had cross-border travel restrictions. Moreover, this pandemic is a much more significant global threat than the previous global health hazards and will undoubtedly take a much longer time to resolve. The 2003 SARS, the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, and the 2015 MERS had a minimal impact on tourism as the hazards were more localized.
But the widespread nature of the coronavirus massively impacted the global economy. So, it’ll make the overall recovery a lot slower. As per the estimations of WTTC, the impact of COVID-19 will be five times more than the global financial crisis. This means it affected the global economy in a much more brutal way.
Unless the effects of COVID-19 decrease to a specific limit, the tourism sector has no way of continuing. To reduce the community spread, every region has to be isolated. But keeping the tourism sector active won’t help this process. However, the people who went bankrupt due to the shutdown of the tourism sector have no other way of earning either.
Numerous jobs interact directly with the tourism sector. There’s a separate sector that takes care of the living arrangements of the visitors. Then there’s also the food and drinks services. Passenger transportation facilities play a significant role too. The travel agencies and transportation rental services come into play here.
As per a survey done in 14 different countries, around 15.3 million people work in and with the tourism sector. Among them, 6.4 million are women, and 8.9 million are men. This means that the overall tourism employment compared to the total employment is about 5.1 percent.
Most of the tourist places in those 14 countries are urban-based. Around 8.8 million people work in this sector in those areas. However, about 6.5 million people work in tourist spots based in remote areas.
Tourism employment in the urban areas shares around 8.3 percent of total employment, compared with the rural share, which is about 3.4 percent.
Present condition of international tourism
Although some countries opened up their borders and started taking in tourists, it’s not fully clear when the borders will re-open globally.
The countries which have opened their borders have announced a mandatory quarantine period that incoming tourists must follow. However, the situation is still not under control. But the countries are trying to find solutions to compensate for the massive impact of the coronavirus.
Canada was one of the first to re-open the borders for international tourists. They also offered the tourists the option to get tested and even take a quarantine period to ensure they were healthy.
Present condition of domestic tourism
While most of the attention has been focused specifically on international tourism, domestic tourism has also been largely affected by these containment measures.
Before the crisis began, domestic tourism valued almost 75% of the total tourism expenditures in OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. So, you can guess what a massive impact it had on the economy when the borders were closed for so long.
To recover from the damage because by COVID-19, domestic tourism has to play a significant role. The initial recovery phase is crucial because of the uncertainty surrounding the entire world.
If steps are taken quickly, the countries that primarily rely on domestic tourism are more likely to recover than other countries.
Recovering from tourism employment crisis
If we want to show the world what a crisis at the global level can do to the lives of ordinary people, we can take this pandemic as an example. The unsettling conditions that were consistent throughout the outbreak were highly frightening. The effects were seen in all sectors and especially in the tourism economy.
National decision making
Around 60% decline was recorded in international tourism because of COVID-19 in 2020. This could’ve easily increased to 80% if the recovery process had been delayed to December. But some of the nations took the necessary precautions and followed the health securities excellently. That’s why they were able to rebound quickly.
The entire worlds’ tourism ecosystem has experienced the effects of COVID-19. Re-opening and re-building the ecosystem as a whole will definitely require the collective approach of everyone related to this system.
Some government policies mainly focus on the well-being of this sector and the people related to this sector. The governments, along with the industry together, should focus their efforts on:
- Applying mandatory health protocols to ensure safe travels
- Lifting travel restrictions
- Working with local tourism-based businesses to gain liquidity supports
- Restoring traveler confidence with new strategies
- Introducing informative apps for visitors to promote domestic tourism
- Rebuild tourist spots, encourage innovation, and collectively invest in the tourism sector
At this time, the actions mentioned earlier are incredibly essential. The authorities should take all these actions with proper coordination with the local businesses.
Only then formal reopening and recovery of the tourism economy would be successful. The most vulnerable and sensitive destinations should be emphasized during the recovery phase.
Looking forward, the steps taken today will eventually help improve our future. Governments should consider the longer-term impact of this crisis and rethink the strategies and policies to ensure better growth of the country.
Structural transformation should be introduced to build a more sustainable, robust, and resilient tourism ecosystem. This crisis is an opportunity to rethink and rework the tourism sector for a better future for the optimistic ones.
Prevention of future shocks
COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disaster in the world’s economy. So, to prevent this sort of situation from ever happening again, the national and international authorities that look after a country’s tourism sector should come up with effective policies.
These strategies can be designed for particular countries and regions implemented accordingly. This could also be an excellent basis for building national recovery plans.
Tourism plays a significant role in the economy of a country. So, the people who work day and night to ensure the quality of enjoyment and security of these spots should also have job security. It’s only fair that their well-being is also ensured by the relevant authorities.
The government should come forward to make sure that the problems these people face get taken care of. This will encourage people to invest more in the tourism sector, bringing a better future for the workers. In turn, the national economy will flourish and bring in a more diverse booming culture in future.
Hessah Alajlan is doing a Master in Tourism, hospitality and event management at The university of Queensland