The effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry

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(Last updated on: 01/04/2020)

Lets discuss the effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry. This post will help you to be more informed about the current Coronavirus situation and help you to make an objective decision on whether you should postpone or cancel your travel plans.

Welcome to a world with COVID-19

Coronavirus. It’s probably the most talked about topic of early 2020. COVID-19, more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, has wreaked havoc around the world.

Hospitals are bursting at the seams, people are having mental breakdowns as a result of mandatory quarantine and isolation, education systems have been severely disrupted and the global economy is on a downturn. These are difficult times on many levels.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of sources online addressing the matter of the Coronavirus. Some are reputable, others less so. However, the vast majority of these are providing statistical data or discussing symptoms and effects of the virus. Most people have not given even a thought to the effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry.

For up to date information on the global Coronavirus situation I recommend you refer to the World Health Organisation’s website.

The effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry

effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a significant disruption to travel worldwide. This has had devastating consequences for the tourism industry as a whole.

Oftentimes when an event occurs which causes disruption to the tourism industry it is localised and predominantly impacts smaller businesses- think Egyptian revolution, Fukushima or the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. The Coronavirus outbreak is different. It is disrupting travel on a global scale.

Quite understandably, people are concerned first and foremost about their own and their family’s health and wellbeing. But COVID-19 has a greater reach than many people realise. Aside from the obvious health issues that are resulting from this virus worldwide, there are also effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry.

For those of you who do not know me- I am a Senior Lecturer in tourism research. I have also been travelling in China and South East Asia during the Coronavirus outbreak with my family (you can see my recent updates on Instagram). I am not a medical doctor and I do not provide any medical advice or guidance.

So based on my knowledge of the tourism industry (which I have worked in and studied extensively during the past decade) and my own personal experiences, I have put together a list of ten ways that Coronavirus is effecting the tourism industry globally.

#1 People have stopped travelling because of Coronavirus

The general public are scared. They are scared that they may contract the Coronavirus. They are scared that they may transmit the virus to their elderly or immune-compromised friends and relatives.

As a result, many people are choosing not to travel.

I remember when I saw people on Facebook stating that they had cancelled holidays from the USA to Europe. There were only a few hundred cases of the Coronavirus at the time and these were all contained within China. I thought these people were being incredibly dramatic. Fast forward a few weeks and their decisions seem far more logical!

effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry
This major tourist attraction in Danang, Vietnam was almost empty during our visit in March 2020

As a result of people cancelling holidays and travel plans, the effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry are significant. These are outlined in the following nine points.

#2 Tourism attractions are closed because of Coronavirus

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 many Governments have imposed restrictions on large gatherings.

Likewise, many businesses have decided themselves not to open due to fears that large congregations may increase the likelihood of transmission.

In China, almost all major tourist attractions have been closed during the outbreak indefinitely. Other destinations have also closed major attractions such as Disney in Japan and The Louvre in Paris. You can read a list of major tourist attractions that have closed as a result of Coronavirus around the world here.

The closure of major tourist attractions further contributes to the effects of Coronavirus on tourism as outlined in point number one- people do not want to travel to a destination where the attractions that they wanted to visit are closed.

I have read of many cases where the person was still willing to travel despite the Coronavirus outbreak, but had decided to cancel their travel plans because they wouldn’t be able to do the things that they wanted to do when they got there. Some people, such as one of my favourite family travel bloggers over at mumpacktravel, are still travelling despite many closures. However, these numbers are few and far between.

#3 Quarantines may be suddenly imposed

China put in place some pretty harsh draconian measures to attempt to contain COVID-19. Where we live in China people were not allowed to leave their apartment for several weeks! Whilst this was pretty tough for those stuck inside for week after week, not knowing when these quarantines will be lifted, it was necessary to reduce transmission of the virus, and it largely worked.

However, quarantines were put in place suddenly and movement was reduced or restricted in some areas overnight. This meant that travellers may get caught in the crossfire and become stuck.

Fast forward a few weeks and the rest of the world began putting in place such measures too. People have been locked inside cruise ships and hotels as a result of necessary quarantine measures. Others have been told that they cannot fly until they have taken a negative test for the virus. Some people have been caught up in areas that have been put on lockdown throughout the world.

For many people, their decision not to travel during the Coronavirus outbreak is not because of health concerns, it is for fear of being stuck somewhere indefinitely.

#4 Your flight may be cancelled

One of the major effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry is that flights are being cancelled around the world. There are two main reasons for these cancellations.

Firstly, the airline may be worried that by flying to said destination they may contribute to the spread of the virus.

Secondly, the specified route is no longer in demand and is therefore no longer economically viable.

In most cases, airlines are cancelling their flights because they are no longer making them money on these flights. This means that the airline profits are down, which in the case of Flybe, had contributed to the subsequent collapse of the airline.

Loss of flight revenue has greater impacts than many people realise. In actual fact, in many cases the majority of the money that you pay for your flight ticket covers taxes. These taxes are then used by the Government on things such as sustainability, healthcare and education. If less people are flying, there is less revenue from taxes and therefore less money to be spent on public welfare.

Further to this, if an airline no longer flies to a specific destination, then the tourism in that destination is reduced or may even cease. This means that local businesses and the local economy will suffer.

#5 You might not be allowed in the country that you wish to visit

Many countries are not allowing people in who have travelled to areas with severe outbreaks. Here is a list of countries that are not allowing in people from China– it’s pretty extensive!

China have also restricted people from entering from certain countries including Japan, South Korea and Italy.

The situation changes daily, so there is every risk that you may go on holiday and not be able to return to your point of origin.

effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry

#6 Small businesses are suffering

It is often the small businesses that suffer in times of hardship, such as this. The independent travel agent in Cornwall, the street seller in Thailand, the taxi driver in South Africa. If there are no tourists, there is often no business.

I have met many local workers on my travels during the Coronavirus outbreak. The effect of Coronavirus on tourism is most certainly evident in Asia. We have paid half the usual price for hotels and we have visited many tourist attractions without the crowds.

Whilst this has been good for us as tourists, I have seen the look of desperation on the faces of the local business people- the man who wants to to sell my daughter an ice cream, the lady who offered us a tuk tuk ride home, the family-run restaurant business that we ate in.

If you do decide to travel during this time, don’t forget about the local businesses. The large multinational chains and conglomerates will survive this time. McDonalds isn’t going anywhere, but Bob’s Burgers might be. I urge you to avoid the big chains, minimise economic leakage and support small business during this time of hardship.

#7 Large businesses are suffering

Whilst most of the economic effects of Coronavirus on tourism have the most severe impacts on small businesses, large organisations do suffer too.

We have recently seen the collapse of airline Flybe, and this may not be the first large travel organisation that folds as a result of the reduction in tourism because of the Coronavirus.

#8 Economic impacts of Coronavirus

As I have touched upon throughout this article, the economic impacts of tourism resulting from the Coronavirus outbreak are vast.

In fact, economists have suggested that the Coronavirus outbreak could trigger a global economic recession.

With people travelling less and going out less, they will inevitably being spending less money. Stock markets around the world have seen drops and many companies have seen drops in their revenue (except maybe hand sanitiser, face masks and toilet roll retailers- did you know people are stock piling toilet roll around the world!?).

The economic effects of Coronavirus reach beyond the tourism industry. An economic recession, whether localised or global, can have devastating consequences on standards of living and public welfare.

#9 Travel insurance doesn’t cover Coronavirus

Many travel insurance companies have stated that they will not cover you for Coronavirus issues. Policies differ, so it is important that you check the small print.

Some travel insurance organisations will not cover medical expenses, but will cover cancellations and disruption. Others will not offer any cover at all.

However, this shouldn’t necessarily be a reason not to travel. Most airlines that have cancelled flights are offering full refunds for travellers. Hotels and tourist attractions are also offering refunds if they have closed in many cases. I have had a positive experience with Airbnb, who provided me with refunds for two bookings, even though they were non-refundable.

In terms of medical coverage, this is something that you will need to assess yourself. Many people are not travelling because they have underlying health concerns, which is sensible- because the Coronavirus effects those people the worst.

Others are postponing their travels or changing their holiday destination to an area that is not currently affected by Coronavirus.

Worldometers is a great website for tracking the total number of cases in each country and how many of these remain active.

#10 Media hysteria

There has been A LOT of media coverage on the Coronavirus. However, this is fast out-dated and a lot of it is not accurate or is sensationalist.

I’ve have read that American news is particularly bad for overreacting. Personally, I always rely on the BBC for accurate and unbiased news. I think the BBC are great.

Don’t just rely on what you find on Google. Just because something appears on the first page does not mean that it is the best source of information. I have had friends and family send me messages with information that they have found that has been completely wrong!

Yes, the Coronavirus has spread fast and it can be fatal. However, did you know that there are already several Coronaviruses in circulation throughout the world? We generally refer to them as the common cold or the flu…. Most people who contract the virus will be absolutely fine after a few days.

As I said at the beginning of the article, I am not a medical doctor. However, I do believe that there are some cases of overreaction and that we need to tsar a step back and objectively look at the facts.

I read an interesting article on Vice, written by an ER Doctor that I would recommend you read. It is one of the best articles that I have read about the Coronavirus stuff that puts the situation into perspective well. You can read the article here.

This pandemic is spreading throughout the world FAST. It is causing people untold stress, causing mental illness, destroying businesses, livelihoods and economies and crippling healthcare systems. But to me, it seems bizarre that in China you are taped in your apartment, in Italy you are locked in a town but can still physically leave your house and it Britain people are having panic buying toilet paper before heading down the pub for a couple of beers. Somethings seems amiss there to me.

Whatever your government is suggesting, however, don’t overreact but also don’t under-react. Yes, these are indeed difficult times. But don’t believe everything that you read- sticks to official sources and cut out the sensationalist hype that some media are portraying!

Conclusion- The effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry

The purpose of this article is to inform you of the effects of Coronavirus on the tourism industry, which I hope I have done. The impacts of this virus reach far beyond medical issues. The economic and social impacts are also prevalent throughout the world.

I am not here to advise you on whether you should or should not continue to travel during this time, but I hope that this article has helped to inform you when making your decision.

Do you have any other information or points that you would like to make about Coronavirus? Leave your comments in the box below!

8 Comments
  1. Tracy

    This was a very level headed post, something we really need more of at the moment. Something else that is becoming quite prevalent in counties where there is quite a lot of hysteria due to media sensationalization is the xenophobia. I’m returning to my home country, where up until a few days ago there were no recorded cases and the xenophobia we’re facing from friends and extended family is absolutely brutal. While we plan to self quarantine, many have said they would rather stay away from us even after that and we’ve been encouraged to not come to social gatherings even after the danger of possible transmission has passed. It’s really disappointing because the whole reason we’re returning home is to get back to normal life, because at the moment where I live in China is just not livable for expats at the moment. The draconian measures may have subsided but it’s still a major mission to get deliveries, food supplies of non essentials has been heavily affected and the disadvantage of not speaking much chinese only adds to that and now many foreigners are being denied entry to gyms, pharmacies etc so the quality of life for expats has really been affected. That’s not to mention that many foreign teachers are being duped out of their salaries by their companies or schools in the name of this outbreak. So it’s really bleak for foreigners in China and it seems to be getting just as bleak for those looking to go back to their home countries to try to avoid the hardships that they’re now facing in China.

    Reply
    • Hayley

      Thanks for your feedback Tracy. I have been travelling since the outbreak and I do not want to return to China with the current circumstances. I’m sorry to hear that you have had some bad experiences. Indeed, I have also witnessed a lot of xenophobia sadly.

      Reply
  2. Victoria

    Thanks for sharing this comprehensive information about COVID-19. As you rightly pointed out, this is an Economic and social virus that has affected the world in no small measure.
    Honestly, the Tourism sector has been greatly affected. I strongly believe there is always light at the end of the tunnel… COVID – 19 will SURELY PASS. We pray for the safety of our friends and family.
    Right now, I simply practice simple hygiene, restrict my movement and I haven’t been to China for the past 15 years. Thanks again for this enlightenment.
    Keep up the good work!!

    Reply
    • Hayley

      I’m glad that you found the post useful. I’m sure it will pass eventually too. Stay safe!

      Reply
  3. Helen

    I am booked to stay fly back from Australia to the UK in 3 weeks and wondering if to bring my flight forward.

    Reply
  4. Medit

    So important! Thanks for all the work you’re putting in!

    Reply
    • Dr Hayley Stainton

      Absolutely! Thanks Medit

      Reply
  5. Joseph Soccer

    Thanks For Sharing Such a Great Information with us. I Hope this Outbreak Will go on Soon.

    Reply

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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