Coronavirus: Is the travel & tourism industry lost?

Coronavirus: Is the travel & tourism industry lost?

The Coronavirus crisis may very well become one of the largest challenges ever for the travel and tourism industry.



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Leaders of the global travel industry include the public sector represented by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the private sector represented by a number of organizations, most prominently the World Travel and Tourism Council.

It appears leaders of the private and public sectors are speechless. Some issued a generic goodwill statement more than a week ago.
It appears no one is coordinating this crisis for the travel trade, no one was prepared to deal with such a crisis. Is the tourism industry able to respond to such a challenge with the organizations in place?

Some multinational organizations may appear to be more concerned about their money-making events, summits or conferences.

Coronavirus needs leaders in the travel sector.

Safertourism announced a last-minute workshop conference during ITB and on March 5. More information and registration click here.

Here are responses posted by international organizations and institutions.

UNWTO issued the last statement on January 31,2020

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is closely monitoring developments related to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), both in China and worldwide and is cooperating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since the very start of the emergency, the Chinese authorities have acted swiftly and decisively. UNWTO expresses its solidarity with the Chinese people, its government and its tourism sector at these challenging times.

In recent years, China has emerged as a true global tourism leader, both as a source market and as a leading destination in itself, providing livelihoods for millions of people across the country. And tourism will offer a valuable lifeline as China recovers and rebuilds from this setback, just as the sector has proven its resilience many times before.

The responsibility of tourism

During times of crisis, tourism has to live up to its responsibility as an integral part of wider society. The sector must put people and their wellbeing first.

The cooperation of the tourism sector will be vital in stopping the spread of the virus and limiting its impact on people and communities. Tourists also have a responsibility to inform themselves before they travel in order to limit the threat of transmission, and they should follow the recommendations of the WHO and their own national health authorities.

Tourism is vulnerable to the effects of public health emergencies and is already being affected by this outbreak. However, it is too early to fully estimate the impacts this outbreak will have.

UNWTO as the specialized UN agency for tourism will continue supporting WHO, the lead UN agency for the management of this outbreak by advising and providing tourism specific guidance.

More information on coronavirus 2019-nCoV here.

WTTC last statement February 3, 2020:

Co-operation between public and private sectors within Travel & Tourism is essential to mitigating the impact of the coronavirus, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The call from Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  

Ms. Guevara, former Tourism Minister of Mexico, was closely involved in 2010 with the aftermath, and then recovery, of the Mexican outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009, which led to fatalities and a significant impact on the country’s economy.

The move from WTTC comes as airlines around the world, including leading carriers such as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, suspended flights to mainland China to help contain the spread of the virus. 

Major hotels groups such as Hilton and Accor have also taken action, offering customers free cancellations at a number of hotels within Greater China. Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Combatting the spread of the coronavirus is absolutely crucial and the global Travel & Tourism sector has a vital part to play. As expected, the private sector has stepped up to offer its support and come together during this crisis by putting people before profits. 

“It has helped curtail travel in affected areas, with airlines cancelling flights and hotels suspending reservations. Meanwhile, travel providers have offset the impact on customers by providing full refunds to people who want them and future flexible travel options to those looking to travel at a later date.

“The public and private sectors working in tandem is essential to helping contain the spread of this new virus strain and protecting the public. The resilience of the private sector is shown in its determination to overcome whatever challenges are thrown its way to minimise the economic impact of such events. But there is always more that can be done in what is a rapidly changing situation.

“Information sharing is vital. We would urge even closer cooperation between public and private sectors, not only in China but further afield, across Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Rapid action can help limit lasting damage and the economic impact on the global Travel & Tourism sector, an industry that generates 10.4% (US$8.8 trillion) to global GDP.” WTTC says previous viral outbreaks show how devastating their effect can be.

The worldwide economic impact of H1N1 was estimated at up to US$55 billion, with the loss to the Mexican tourism industry valued at US$5 billion after the 2009 outbreak. A similar economic impact affected China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada after the 2003 SARS outbreak, damaging the global Travel & Tourism sector by between US$30 and US$50 billion. China alone suffered a 25% reduction of tourism GDP and a loss of 2.8 million jobs. 

Analysis of previous major viral epidemics by experts from WTTC, shows that the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19.4 months, but with the right response and management could recover in as little as 10 months. Many lessons have been learned since the 2003 outbreak, which have been implemented recently to stem the spread of the virus. 

WTTC supports WHO recommendations for travellers, and the general public, to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses including frequent hand cleaning; covering mouth and nose with flexed elbow when sneezing or coughing; avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough; avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals as well as the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. 

PATA issued no statement as of today

ETOA: No statement found

UFTAA: No statement

African Tourism Board (ATB) Statement January 31

Should you still travel to Africa? The Executive Committee of the African Tourism Board (ATB) had an emergency meeting today to discuss the impact of coronavirus on travel and tourism to Africa. ATB’s answer in short: Africa is beautiful, amazing, and ready to welcome you with open arms.

Cuthbert Ncube, Chairman of the African Tourism Board, echoed Juergen Steinmetz, CMCO and founding chair of the NGO, together with CEO Doris Woerfel and COO Simba Mandinyenya. The ATB Executive Committee said we need to point out there is a lot being said about coronavirus. It’s a very hot issue, and it’s making headlines. The traveling public is on edge.

To ease this tension, the African Tourism Board is urging travelers and governments as well as travel and tourism stakeholders to read and follow the Emergency Explanation issued today by the World Health Organization.

After you read the emergency explanation, you will understand that there is no reason to shut down tourism. We at ATB are telling travelers to consider Africa as a holiday and vacation destination more than ever.

One isolated case of the coronavirus has been detected in the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Mauritius and Kenya. The virus is well under control in Africa, and all stakeholders and governments must work together to continue for Africa to be a safe, desirable, and healthy destination for visitors. We at ATB will do everything in our power to engage and encourage the conversation, participate in training, and spread awareness to the world.”

The WHO Committee does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. 

The WHO Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce the spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations. 

It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing, and prevention of the onward spread of 2019-nCoVinfection, and to share full data with WHO. Technical advice is available on the WHO website.

Countries are reminded that they are legally required to share information with WHO under the IHR. 

Any detection of 2019-nCoV in an animal (including information about the species, diagnostic tests, and relevant epidemiological information) should be reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as an emerging disease.

Countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, preventi on of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response though multi-sectoral communication and collaboration and active participation in increasing knowledge on the virus and the disease, as well as advancing research.  

The Committee does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. 

US Travel Association Statement January 31

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement on the evolving coronavirus situation:

“We are aware that U.S. officials have now imposed extra precautionary measures that are specifically targeted at travelers seeking to enter the U.S. from China, including the temporary quarantining of returning U.S. nationals.

“We note that there are not any warnings at all for travel within the U.S. or directed at anyone who has not been to China.

“We applaud the steps being taken to keep the U.S. safe, but we urge that precautions are continually vetted against the latest public health data and guidance from top experts, and evolve as the threat level shifts.”

SKAL INTERNATIONAL statement February 1

As the President of Skål International, which is the largest organization of the World of Travel and Tourism Professionals, I wish to communicate to the citizens of Australia and China who have been devastated by the fury of Nature and are encountering tremendous hardship that the entire members of the Industry across the globe stand in solidarity with them.

It may not be preposterous to assume that this will affect Travel and Tourism in all countries specially in the current year 2020, which cause may be due to the uncertainty that could be the fall out of the nature of the Coronavirus epidemic across Wuhan. 

Skål International has always emphasized that for the protection and growth of Tourism the members of the Industry and their governments should be sensitive to protecting Environment.

At all times Skål International has emphasized the need of the community to ensure the protection of nature as a philosophy and an essential part of the activities of the community in which they exist.

We at Skål International offer our support to Australia who have been devastated by the Bush Fires and to China who have been affected adversely by the Coronavirus epidemic.

We hope that they will get respite from this unfortunate situation and request the members of the Industry across our network to ensure that Tourism is least affected by exchanging positive communication to prospective travellers.

Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre

There has been no official statement yet, but Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Bartlett, who is also the chair of the center has been vocal on the Coronavirus on a daily basis.

South Pacific Tourism Organization: Nothing posted

Safertourism announced a last-minute workshop conference during ITB and on March 5. More information and registration click here.