Tourism must plan for future crises

As international borders reopen and a new wave of COVID-19 sweeps the world, travel between countries faces new challenges and must be addressed by internal reforms and restructures, according to business analysts in Australia and New Zealand.

The pandemic can be a catalyst for the tourism sector and governments to look at future strategies to balance citizen safety with survival of vital travel industries – including retraining and employment in related industries, they say in new article published in the Tourism Review International.

A lockdown this month in Shanghai, one of China’s biggest cities, emphasises the fragile nature of global travel situation, says article co-author Dr Sharif Rasel, Lecturer in International Business at Flinders University.

“One way tourism and hospitality operators and policymakers can prepare and reduce the vulnerability of the industry is to start vertically integrating operations with other related industries, such as agriculture, viticulture or the higher education and further training sectors,” Dr Rasel says.

This study builds on calls for further investigations into how tourism destinations plan for, and respond to, future global crises and disasters, along with the roles of political leaders, says first author Associate Professor Mulyadi Robin, from the Australian Institute of Business.

“The pandemic has offered countries the opportunity to undertake fundamental transformations in their tourism industry, especially in attempting to reboot both domestic and international travel numbers,” he says.

Corresponding author Professor Girish Prayag, from the University of Canterbury, NZ agrees:

“The border closures at the start of the pandemic were effective in saving lives and people will continue to look to their country’s leaders for border and community protection during the pandemic and future crises,” he says.

“At the same time, we know international human mobility has been the driving force of economic growth and policy decisions for the tourism industry,” says Professor Prayag, also co-author of a book on tourism resilience.

Tourism and hospitality workers affected by the pandemic could transfer skills to seasonal harvesting, viticultural or other work in agriculture and primary production, experts suggest. Photo: Pixabay

Study co-author Dr Mesbahuddin Chowdhury, also from the University of Canterbury, says border closures have significant economic implications.

“Governments around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, have started gradually to open their borders for international tourists to boost economic recovery,” says Dr Chowdhury.

“Hospitality and tourism industry must develop their own strategies to operate in current and future pandemics.”

Promoting domestic travel during the pandemic has proved a successful strategy for sustaining employment, income and activity in the sector.

“Upskilling employees and retraining those who have been laid off for securing jobs in other industries are ways to make the economy and tourism industry more resilient,” Dr Chowdhury says.

With international travel conditions still volatile, the researchers recommend further measures to protect tourism and hospitality businesses, while maintaining high levels of trust and compliance in COVID-19 protection guidelines across affected communities.

Using data from the World Bank and GLOBE Project, the study found closing borders to international tourist arrivals in 2019 played a leading role in saving lives in 2020, with other government protocols also moderating COVID-19 fatalities in countries where self-protection was accepted and expected.

The article – ‘Did closing borders to tourists save lives? Tourist arrival, self-protective leadership, and COVID-19 casualties’ (2022) by Mulyadi Robin, Sharif Rasel, Girish Prayag and Mesbahuddin Chowdhury – has been published in Tourism Review International DOI: 10.3727/154427221X16317419620237.

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