How hard will the Coronavirus hit the travel industry?
The travel industry is in doldrums and there is no respite in sight. It’s also unlikely that we shall see people resuming travel for leisure anytime soon. For more than 90% of the travelers, there are other priorities to look after and attend to before they would think of a vacation to spend on. It may not be until Nov 2020 that we would see some decent and visible domestic and outbound tourism activities happening anywhere in the world. This is also on the premise that the virus is totally eliminated in each country and that we have some cure or vaccine available to provide immunity, well-being, and peace of mind to the travelers.
Post COVID-19, we shall see some major regulations being adopted by every country in terms of stating mandatory underlying requirements for health-check certifications and travel insurance for every tourist visiting their respective countries, On their part, every country will also demand from their tourism authorities to ensure every guest houses, Homestays, Hotels, Resorts, Villas, Restaurants, Bars, and tourist attractions follow the necessary requirement of hygiene, sanitation, and cleanliness in their premises. So much so that these shall be standard norms to be followed diligently.
Travel is a USD 8 trillion industry and no government can afford to ignore it. In many countries, tourism is one of the highest revenue earners and is also the highest employment provider. Every country will make immediate efforts to make their tourist destinations healthy and attractive to their own citizens and to the foreigners, as many large industries such as food & beverage, agriculture, cosmetics, art & craft, entertainment, promotional events, fashion & lifestyle, etc depend heavily on tourists.
All is not lost, however, as nobody wants to be locked down inside their homes. Interactions with various industry stakeholders in various prominent markets, such as Middle-east countries, Central Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, and even Western European countries reveal that people are very keen to travel and go on vacation with friends and families as soon as they get a chance to. The more affected the country and its people are, the more the desire to cut loose and break the shackles. People in China want to travel to their favorite tourist destinations, in 2020 itself, provided the airline industry and hotels support on connectivity, cost, and package deals
Many lives and livelihoods are some tourism dominated countries depend entirely on tourist arrivals. It is estimated that more than 50 Mn people in tourism & travel sector are in danger of losing their jobs, temporary or permanent, due to the ongoing pandemic. There are some island nations that rely entirely on tourism to earn revenue and livelihood.
There are positive indications amid the gloom, too. Bali wants to reopen its Hotels and resorts in May itself. It may sound highly optimistic, but they have their data to suggest and support so. Bali is a hotspot of the global tourism industry and they are out to attract tourists from China, South Korea, Japan, and Australia, having successfully contained the spread of coronavirus and thus confident of fully sanitizing the land of Gods in about a month’s time.
Similarly, in Thailand, the number of newly infected cases is declining. Tourism Authority of Thailand is taking stock of the situation observing the daily developments very closely knowing that the economy and job losses have to be taken care of at the earliest possible. It is expected that the TAT and Thai Govt both will extend helping hands to the ailing Travel, Aviation and Hospitality sector to ensure Thailand looks safe, clean, and attractive once again. Thailand is also a premier destination in Asia for fairytale weddings and the country will be keen to welcome hundreds and thousands of prospective destination wedding clients from all parts of the world.
Other large countries such as India where tourism is a USD 255 billion industry, or USA where tourism is a USD 1.6 trillion industry, are currently severely affected due to the pandemic but shall be working overtime to bring the injured economy back on track by investing in bettering their existing tourism infrastructure as millions of jobs can be lost due to the current crisis by the time travel restrictions are lifted.
Smaller but prominent tourism destinations in Asia and Europe shall also be looking at opening their borders to business and leisure travelers as they try to bring back their economy into a high productivity zone. Countries such as Vietnam, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Norway, Spain and many others are greatly hurt due to loss of tourism business, although priority in these countries shall be to ensure their industrial manufacturing, and other commercial activities start as soon as possible. The rich and developed countries are expected to see their tourism business rising quicker as compared to the developing countries because these countries already have a safety net in place through advanced healthcare and insurance, their currencies are stronger, and also because their citizens have better disposable incomes.
The aviation sector will provide a direct cue as to how fast the business, trade and commerce activities between countries begin after the pandemic is over. Aviation is one of the most stressed sectors, and every government will have to ensure that the airline industry remains competitive to consumers, as growth in travel, holiday, leisure, and entertainment industry is directly proportional to the airfare competitiveness.
We have seen this year that mega sporting events, trade exhibitions, and related conventions and events have been postponed or canceled. Some major ones to name are Tokyo Olympics, Cricket IPL in India, Expo 2020 Dubai, ITB Berlin, English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and so on. These events boost the travel and hospitality sector in massive ways. The travel industry is very hopeful and optimistic that government authorities incentivize the industry stakeholders in creating a conducive environment to travel safely, and that people respond in enthusiasm and hope that their dreams of seeing this beautiful world do not go for a toss.