The Coronavirus which started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 has created a significant impact on the tourism sector because of the travel restrictions and fall in demand among travellers. The tourism industry has been vastly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as about 217 countries have enunciated travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread. The U.N. World Tourism Organization had estimated that international travels might decline by 58 per cent to 78 per cent in 2020, causing a probable loss of about US$0.9–1.2 trillion in travel receipts. In many worlds’ cities, potential travel fell to 80 to 90 per cent. The recent survey shows a 65 per cent fall in international trips and tourist arrivals in the first six months of 2020. In other words, due to the pandemic, many countries have placed an entry ban, quarantines, or a range of other restrictions for its citizens or recent travellers from the most affected places. However, here below are the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the travel plans of people within months.
The year began with a bang and with much hope to everyone. However, a few days into the year and the world was hit with rumours about a new kind of disease creating an unforeseen situation in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. Soon, it was exposed that it was a fact and not a rumour. A reality too grim to believe, but still it was a fact.
The Covid-19 virus was not named at that point, and various versions of how the virus started began to float in the air. No one outside of China felt the real impact. Within China, the city of Wuhan was put into lockdown, and people continued to live their lives as usual in other parts of the populous country.
All the countries imposed an immediate ban on everyone having plans to travel to mainland China. A luxury cruise ship called Diamond Princess was detected with infection, and its crew and passengers were halted from disembarking the ship. Soon, several countries added Hong Kong and Japan to their list of banned countries. Pre-planned trips stood cancelled, and everyone suddenly found their visas to China, Hong Kong, and Japan scrapped.
If you were a person and had planned a vacation to these parts of the world in January, your plans were hit hard by the sudden development of the crisis. In fact, tourists who were in the Hubei province got stuck there as all countries stopped flying their planes to this part. Airlifts were arranged later on which bailed out the people who were stranded and scared for their lives. It can be said with no doubt whatsoever that their trips were soured and by the time, the travellers were back home, they were swearing never to leave their homes again.
Back in January, everyone in the U.S.A. was still freely travelling within the U.S.A. And people went ahead happily with their trips to the rest of the world, excluding China. Europe mainly remained a favourite with tourists.
The second month of the year had started, and the world watched in horror as the death toll climbed in the epicentre of the Covid-19 attack, Wuhan. Thousands of new cases were discovered each day, creating insurmountable pressure on the robust healthcare of China. People watched, with a tad sense of relief that it is unfolding somewhere else and not in their neighbourhood.
By the first week of February, a few cases began to appear in other countries, but in most cases, the numbers reflected single-digit figures with no fatalities. And, there was absolutely no travel restriction imposed on visits to countries outside of China and Japan. A travel advisory was issued advising people to cancel non-essential travel to South-East Asia as well, but people did travel, armed with masks and sanitizers.
Remember the few cases developing out of China? The figures did not seem scary at that moment. Well, things slipped out of that space soon. Two new epicentres of the outbreak began to develop in Iran and Italy. The rapid development in the cases flummoxed the respective governments. In Iran, patient zero is believed to have travelled back and forth to China, suppressing details to the officials. And, in Italy, the Government admitted major mistakes in quarantining the incoming people from China. They were unable to locate their patient zero.
Globally, the countries scrambled to ban their citizens from travelling to Iran. No incoming flights from Iran were allowed as well. If you were hoping to travel to Iran for religious pilgrimage or any pleasure trip, it stood cancelled.
In the case of Italy, the world took its sweet time to impose a ban. And the tourists to and from Italy kept on moving freely within Europe as well as to the U.S.
Things changed very fast, and in the next week, it seemed that Italy was heading for an unforeseen doom. The cases were doubling more immediate, and new areas were locked down every day. It’s was when your travel to Italy got banned and you sitting in your home found your much-awaited trip to the idyllic locations of Italy scrapped within seconds.
March turned out to be the most dangerous month of 2020. W.H.O. declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic affecting people in all parts of the world. The infection had spread from Italy and Iran, and the whole of Europe began to reel under the rapidly mounting daily cases.
It is when the U.S.A. banned all travels to and from the European Union. The U.K. was not on the list for a while. But soon it got added to the no-travel list as well.
Now, you are sitting at home sad and heart-broken that all kinds of international travel have been banned from your favourite locations across the globe.
But this turns out to be not enough! New cases of Covid-19 patients begin to surmount in the various states of U.S.A. And soon, a national state of emergency is declared.
At this point, if you are at home, you know very well that you cannot travel within the country or to countries outside of U.S.A.
Even that is not enough. You have to work out of home as going out would mean exposing yourself to the risk of contracting the disease. All kinds of gatherings, including private parties, concerts, sports activities and everything else has been cancelled.
Like other countries, Cambodia also banned the entry of foreigners from the six-hit countries; Italy, U.S, Spain, Germany, Iran and France since mid-March and after that imposed entry restrictions for all foreign visitors since March 30 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
Most international flights were banned and closed, including the Thailand border since April 4. No wonder both travel and tourist arrivals and spending fell to zero in April. In particular, Hawaii in the U.S. nearly shut down its tourism, and later was down by 99.5% in April. On April 1, Japan expanded its ban on foreign travellers who had visited at least 76 countries and regions, including Canada and the United States.
More so, the Philippines closed all travel in and out of Manila until April 14. Indonesia, effective from April 1, 2020, banned all foreigners except residents, medical personnel, and goods transporters from entering into Indonesia. The Government has also suspended every domestic and international flight until April 15 and ended issuing on-arrival visas to foreign visitors from March 14 to April 30.
The current trends
The European Union has concluded its safe travel list of 14 countries that can be allowed into the E.U. from July 1. It includes Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea and Morocco. By March-end, all E.U. member states apart from Ireland and all Schengen Associated States of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland have introduced the travel restriction. The restriction was later repeatedly prolonged and reviewed. Some member states went as far as stopping EEA and E.U. visitors from entering their respective countries unless they are living permanently in the country.
The United States restricted the entry of all foreign nationals who have visited Brazil, Ireland, China, Iran, the United Kingdom or the Schengen Area in the past and now has close their border for international travels.
The United Kingdom didn’t place entry restrictions. Still, from the June 8, anyone arriving in the U.K. will have to self-isolate at home or Government provided accommodation for 14 days, (apart from particular exemptions and passengers from the place of common travel).
In Africa, the Nigerian Government on May 6 announced an extension of an existing flight ban to June 7 to contain the spread of the pandemic. South Africa, like other African countries, also banned all international travels.
You can keep track of the ever-evolving cases of Covid-19 in the following link:
Impact of the Pandemic to Travels
The Tourism and Travel sector have been hit hard by the Covid-19 mayhem. Several significant hotels have announced a reduction in wages and layoffs. In particular, Hilton and Marriott, some of the largest hotel chains in the world, have laid off thousands of its workers. Other companies in the sector, like the online travelling Expedia Group, announced in February that it was cutting off about 3,000 jobs. While the travel site Booking Holdings which has about 27,000 workers said, it wasn’t hiring for the first time. Almost all airports in the world are shut down. Like stated, the global tourism sector is witnessing an unprecedented massive revenue and job losses. Airlines for America (A4A), already said that its member companies would lose about $87 billion in revenue by the year-end.
The sudden stoppage in world travel because of the pandemic would lead to over 100 million job losses at the end of 2020, according to WTTC analysis. It would cause an approximate $2.7 trillion decrease of G.D.P. in travel and tourism in 2020, the study posited. According to Roger Dow, the President of the U.S. Travel Association; ‘the effect of the pandemic on travel is seven or six times higher than the attacks of 9/11’. America’s travel industry is one of the hardest hit. Against this, the U.S. Travel Association earlier projected a loss of 4.6 million jobs through May, a figure that has increased by August. United States unemployment rate was on a stunning 6.6 million, doubling in a week and by far became the most significant hike in half of a century. Tourism decline in revenue is one of the seeming significant causes of job losses in U.S.
In another vein, the tourism industry of Cambodia, which makes up to 4.92 billion dollars, is currently being hit hard by the pandemic. A tourism survey explained that Cambodia received a total of about 223,400 foreign tourists in March and had a decrease of 65 per cent over the same month last year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the halt or suspension of international and even domestic travel in almost every part of the world. However, the analysis and assessment of the effects of travel restrictions above could be vital to national and international agencies for general health response or planning.
Be that as it may, the world is standing at the brink of disaster, and the duty should be to continue practising social distancing and to educate others not to travel unless significantly needed. This is a period of emergency when people need to work together and get the world out of the current imbroglio.