One of the most affected industries due to the spread of COVID-19 is tourism across the globe. There are many countries and island nations whose GDP is solely dependent on tourism, for e.g. Maldives, Iceland, Malta, Philippines, Thailand and list goes on. According to non-profit World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributed about $8.8 Trillion to the Global Economy in 2018 and was responsible for 10.4% of the economic activities across the globe.
According to Physics, the damage caused to any mechanism is maximum when it is stalled suddenly which happened during this pandemic. In a period of 02-04 months all major economies were shut down with almost nil international flights operating, thereby the worst fears of Tourism industry were brought to life. This article discusses the plight of the industry, challenges ahead and a possible road to recovery.
The Power Brake
Power brake is a safety feature which is nowadays common in almost every type of vehicle, which is used to suddenly stop a vehicle in case of emergency. Similarly lockdown is that “Power Brake” which has completely stopped operations of tourism, thereby giving no response time to build strategies or recovery tactics. The lockdown has even affected Cruise Liners, Aviation Industry, Hotel chains etc, with llittle hope for revival in time ahead. Until now 03 regional airlines as well as some Cruise Liners have filed for bankruptcy in the USA and UK.
Most of the countries which are solely dependent on Tourism for their GDP are generally developing and poor countries which have a very small population and economy like that of Malta, Thailand, Maldives etc. Iceland houses around 332,459 citizens and receives more visitors in a year than the current population of the country. Similarly about 1.5 Million people visited Maldives in 2018, with an island population of 430,000, thereby making such countries overly dependent on tourism.
Recently in a briefing, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that – “Novel Coronavirus continues to be extremely dangerous, and will remain around for a long time.”
TOURISM REVENUES OF THE WORLD
Even after the lockdown is lifted in major economies, there will always be an imminent threat of the spread of the virus. The International flights are not likely to start anytime soon and even if they start also, people will be more cautious and will not be travelling to foreign destinations anytime soon for vacations . Due to the high maintenance cost involved, the Tourism industry has suffered heavy losses.
In India alone, the tourism industry produces yearly revenue of about $41.6 Billion providing employment to around 40 million people in the organized sector and the number could even go significantly up, if the unorganized sector is also included in the calculation. One can imagine the magnitude of this pandemic just by assessing this single industry which will result in some serious job losses and things are not going to get any better for at least for next two quarters.
Even some of the bigger economies of the world will take a major hit e.g., USA tourism industry amounts to $488 Billion, China tourism industry amounts to $224 Billion, Germany tourism industry amounts to $130.8 Billion and list goes on. There will be a significant drop in revenues for all these powerful players also.
In order to survive, the hotel industry adopted several strategies during the pandemic. Consumer behaviour and expectations have changed amid the pandemic and are more focused and demanding on safety, hygiene and health during their stay. The industry is largely focused on prioritising the health and safety of consumers. Employers have prioritised immunisation of staff by providing vaccines and displaying the status of vaccinated staff on their website and other forums to regain the confidence of travellers across the country.
The hotels are more thoughtful about the hotel design and space management. The prime focus is on cleanliness, sanitising and reduction of non-essential elements such as decorative elements. Hoteliers made these changes with focus on social distancing and contact-free systems.
India is betting big on reviving the domestic tourism post COVID-19. Tourism is seen as an opportunity to revive the dying economy of the country, for that plans are being formulated by ministries and different state governments. After assessing that there will be a significant fall in foreign tourists has come up with a unique initiative – “Dekho Apna Desh (See Your Country)”. It is a webinar series hosted by experts who share key nuggets and information about different parts and states like that of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, NE states etc.
India is taking steps like enhancing Medical Tourism which has been gaining traction since people are travelling to foreign countries to seek healthcare services. Since the last decade of the 20th century, India has emerged as a global leader in the medical tourism sector. According to estimates from the Ministry of Tourism, India witnessed 186,644 Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) for medical purposes in 2020, accounting for 7% of the total FTAs.
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