How is the Tourism Industry Suffering From the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The Covid-19 virus has caused decimation to our daily lives. Shops are shut, plans are cancelled and travel is pretty much non-existent as countries shut their borders in an attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ of the deadly virus. Businesses are on their knees as the UK government order non-essential shops to shut, and as many as possible to work from home. As an industry that depends on travel, the tourism sector is in a dire state.

According to Visit Britain, it’s estimated 11% of UK jobs are dependent on tourism, with the sector coming in as one of the top industries across many countries. Spain and Italy in particular depend on it, with the tourism sector accounting for 11% of Spain’s total GDP. Worryingly, these are two of the countries that have been hit particularly hard by the virus and hold, as of April 4th, the top two spots for the most confirmed deaths. The loss of this vital sector could cause even more devastating effects on the economic livelihood of not just the country as a whole, but individual workers in this sector too.

“this global pandemic has brought the majority of the world to a standstill”

Major airlines including Easyjet, British Airways and Ryanair are operating on a skeleton staff with as many as 80% of their flights cancelled. Even relatively stable airlines are warning they will face collapse without a bailout from the government. Pilots, maintenance workers and other airline staff are being sent home unpaid as airlines face huge pressure on finances.

The most overstretched group of staff are Customer Services: as phonelines become increasingly backed up, workers are understandably struggling to cope. There are thousands of concerning issues to solve, regarding both travellers stranded abroad and those uncertain about future flights they’ve booked. Often, it is difficult to find an answer with so much uncertainty in the air and with plans for individual flights having not yet been made, let alone circulated. Paul Charles, an airline analyst, advises against contacting airlines about your travel plans until 3 days before you are due to fly, to help Customer Services get through the most pressing queries.

“On the other side of this pandemic, we will all want to travel again.”

Not since the September 11th, 2001 attacks have airlines faced such a crisis. While airlines have coped before during the 2010 Icelandic volcano ash cloud and the 2008 financial crisis, Covid-19 is unprecedented. Regional or more short-term issues can be coped with, but this global pandemic has brought the majority of the world to a standstill (if you’re among the exception working tirelessly I send big love and respect!).

It may be that the world’s stretched governments trying to cope with the pandemic have to pick and choose which airlines to bail out. Maybe some have to fall to save the sector as a whole. One thing is certain, the desire to travel is built into us. On the other side of this pandemic, we will all want to travel again. The industry will recover eventually, but it may not be the same.

Charlotte Smith

Featured image courtesy of Florida Guidebook via Flickr. Image licence found here. No changes were made to the image. 

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