Slow recovery for travel, tourism sector over new travel restrictions

Flight cancellations, lockdowns, travel bans and airlines reeling, it’s looking like 2020 again as Omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus spreads chaos across the travel and tourism sector.

“We are already having massive cancellations on tickets bought and tour plans,” says Cecile Doumbe, managing director of CMD Tours.

Tour organisers dealing with a gale of cancellations are refunding monies paid for bookings.

“What we thought we had earned has been taken away by the new COVID variant,” Pelagie Egbane, chief Experience creator at 3Cords Leisure & Vacation told BusinessDay.

Egbane had clients travelling to Morocco who had to cancel their flights and tour arrangements.

“Towards the end of 2021, we had this peak in business. People were tired of staying at home as they wanted to go out and that also impacted our business because we became very busy but since last week, our business has slowed down again,” Egbane said.

Just as many countries around the world were beginning to loosen their border restrictions, reports of a newly detected coronavirus variant in South Africa sent many of those doors slamming shut again.

Canada recently added Nigeria to the ‘travel ban’ list. Morocco has suspended all incoming international flights for a two-week period beginning midnight November 29.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said from Friday six countries would be added to the “red” list: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

UK or Irish citizens or permanent residents returning from a red-listed country must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status. Citizens of other countries who have visited a red-list destination will not be able to enter at all.

As of November 30, Japan’s borders are closed to any non-citizens, including international students, short-term residents (those already in the country can stay), or people visiting family.

Read also: Nigeria like UN calls travel ban on African countries ‘Apartheid’

Dubai is restricting travelers originating from or transiting from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, according to Emirates airline.

France has suspended all flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.

Germany has banned all flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

FCM, a global travel management company which also operates in Nigeria, also confirmed cancellations in bookings.

“There has been a bit of tension in Nigeria over the new variant. We process a lot of corporate travels and we have been advised on measures we are supposed to take.

“The impact is not as much as it was during the first lockdown. More people are vaccinated and more people have knowledge about the virus. So, we know travel will soon pick up,” Adejoju Sikuade, country manager, FCM Nigeria said.

Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 percent between March and December 2020 compared with the previous year, according to data observed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Based on a range of tourist arrivals’ projections, the report quantifies the potential economic effects of the contraction in tourism in 2021.

The indirect effects are significant. Due to linkages with upstream sectors such as agriculture, a drop in tourist sales leads to a 2.5-fold loss in real GDP, on average, in the absence of any stimulus measures.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reports that almost all countries have implemented travel restrictions of one sort or another, such as travel bans, visa controls and quarantines (UNWTO 2020).

As a result, international tourism was almost totally suspended in April and May of 2020. Inbound tourist arrivals declined 74 per cent between January and December 2020, about 1 billion trips. However, if the pre-COVID months of January and February 2020 are excluded, the fall in arrivals amounts to 84 per cent.1

The UNWTO (2021b) reports that tourism experts do not expect a return to pre-COVID arrival levels until 2023 or later. In fact, nearly half of the experts interviewed see a return to 2019 levels in 2024 or later (UNWTO, 2021c).

The main barriers are travel restrictions, slow containment of the virus, low traveller confidence and a poor economic environment.

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