The impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry

Last week, we(Cloud9xp) were forced to reschedule all booked experiences through this tough period. This pandemic is inevitably having an enormous impact on us and the entire travel industry, ranging from hotel and cruise ship quarantines to airlines halting flights in some regions. 

Since Corona Virus was first identified in late-2019 in the Wuhan region of China, COVID-19 has spread to dozens of countries around the world. The rate and global spread of infections by Covid-19 – and the related sense of panic across a globalised financial, political and social architecture – sets this particular pandemic apart from any other in modern times.

Quarantine and social distancing measures, travel bans and restrictions, closed regional and national borders, and health communications have been ratcheted up globally to reduce the chance of exposure as Covid-19 infections and fatalities continue to rise. 

The World Health Organization says that just over 2,455 positive cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Africa (WHO, 26 March 2020). Twelve countries in Africa are now experiencing local transmission and with vastly different population demographics, the shape and impact of Covid-19 in Africa could look very different from Europe, Asia and North America. 

The coronavirus epidemic is putting up to 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector at risk, with travel likely to slump by a quarter this year, Asia being the most affected continent, the World Travel and Tourism Council has said. The tourism industry currently accounts for 10% of global GDP. 

The airline industry has been a major Covid-19 casualty, decimating business across the globe due to containment measures. At the start of the outbreak, much of the loss was attributed to the diminished Chinese tourist market, but the global spread of the virus with Europe now the epicentre, has collapsed all demand in the sector. Covid-19 has erased up to 15% of global airline capacity, prompting all carriers to take drastic measures just to stay afloat. (Bloomberg, 2020). The graph below indicates airline capacity, illustrating just how much travel has been curtailed in certain regions, mirroring the aversion regulations countries have put in place to stop Covid-19 infection rates.

On the African continent, airlines have taken similar measures to avoid bankruptcy. The sector has already lost $4.4-billion in revenue since the start of the pandemic. According to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there has been a 20% decline in international bookings and a 15% drop in domestic travel in Africa for March and April 2020.

South African Airways (SAA) has cancelled all international flights until the end of May 2020 in response to the government declaring a State of National Disaster in South Africa as Covid-19 cases surpassed 400. A further 124 regional flights were also grounded.

Royal Air Maroc, Air Tanzania, Air Mauritius, EgyptAir, RwandAir, SAA and Kenya Airways have all suspended flights to and from China. On the other hand, for Africa’s most profitable carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, it is business as usual for its China routes. The airline countered calls to suspend its 35 weekly flights to China, arguing that the measure would not slow the spread of Covid-19.

Hand-in-hand with a collapse of travel goes tourism, hospitality and entertainment. Cancelled national celebrations, sporting events, cultural and religious practices, art, music and literary festivals and conferencing are decimating these industries which face large-scale job losses.

In the case of Covid-19, no country is safe until every country is safe – a fact of our deeply interconnected and interdependent realities. This pandemic is going to require the reset of rules thought previously immutable, especially economic ones that have over a long period sustained or maintained deep structural inequality.

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