The rapid spread of Covid-19 has brought about an abrupt halt in the socio-political structures of the world. In particular, the tourism industry has been greatly affected due to lockdowns, travel curbs, border closures and, above all, fear. The World Tourism Organisation estimated that international tourism could plunge 60-80% in 2020 with Asia and Europe taking the hardest hits. These estimates might vary over the course of the year depending on when restrictions are lifted. Even under the best-case scenario tourism is expected to fall by 50% which in itself will be significant considering that the industry alone constitutes 10% to the world’s GDP.
While it is true that airlines have suffered the most, the effects of the tourism crisis reverberate through economies across the world as the decline in international travel could lead to $1 trillion loses in export revenues. Patience is of the essence as the world anxiously waits for the pandemic to subside. Airlines are hoping that leisure travel would recover as soon as possible but experts claim that the situation will persist till 2021. In the meantime, airlines should introduce travel safety protocols whereby air travel is made safe so that essential flights are operational for transporting necessary goods across countries.
Questioning why such systems have not been able to withstand the pandemic crisis is akin to questioning the very condition of the current socio-political paradigm. The failure of the international tourism industry mirrors the failure of neoliberalism and free market capitalism. Perhaps a way of sustenance till this pandemic is over is to break away from these classical paradigms. Instead, if individual entities work collectively to combat the virus, it may just help us get past this phase. For this, it is essential that in each nation, industries come together by pooling in resources and funds through which a collective system is generated to fight the deadly virus. A radical event requires radical change.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2020.
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