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How you can contribute in saving the tourism industry

By Kepha Olwal Otieno | March 25th 2020

Globally, the travel and tourism industry provides a source of livelihood to millions, both directly and indirectly, supporting and enabling for the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The industry is one of the largest economic sectors, with an estimated revenue generation of $8.8 trillion annually, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). It is, therefore, quite vital for various economies to ensure there are sustainable crisis mitigation strategies in the wake of pandemics as it is currently the case. These strategies should seek to preserve the current benefit of the industry, such as the 320 million jobs generated globally.

The coronavirus poses the biggest challenge to the travel and tourism industry since World War II, and this could see the industry take its biggest financial hit since the 1939-1945 war period. The medical crisis poses a challenge to both developed and developing economies. Currently, the impact of the coronavirus is being felt, with most airlines grounding their fleets to help curb the spread of the virus. This has been initiated by some destinations locking down their borders as a precautionary action, a case in point being Italy, which has been hit devastatingly with the crisis. According to the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the virus could cost 50 million jobs worldwide, and Kenya is not immune to these ugly statistics.

Locally, the tourism industry has gone through several crisis phases, with the most recent being the post-election violence of 2007/2008. It is from this crisis that the industry was recovering and making a possible comeback to its glory days, with last year's data indicating slight improvements in terms of revenue generated and guest arrivals. Data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reflect a 4.3% increase in revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) for airlines operating in Africa in last year's trading period. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) forecasted this data to play a critical role in tourism growth in the year 2020 that would enable the industry to bounce back to its heydays. The predictions were based on current political stability and heightened security in the country.

It is at this point that we, as travelers need to evaluate the impacts of the current actions on the industry both locally and globally in the short and long term. Despite all the current pandemic, there is a silver lining, experts at Tourism Economics expect a full recovery by 2023 based on past slumps after the situation has stabilized. The question at the moment is, how can we contribute to helping the industry at this trying moment? Based on previous global crises, after the recovery process, there is usually some significant increase in travel and tourism activities. In as much as the coronavirus is continuing to spread around the world at an alarming rate, the following actions may help the tourism industry to avoid major slump than it is already facing.

Don't panic.

According to airline industry expert Robert Mann, 'the reaction of businesses to the threat does not necessarily match reality, but the impact is still real.' That the impact of governments' directories not to travel is relatively adverse to various stakeholders in the industry. Mann adds that the medical crisis is more of a behavioral economic problem where people throw probabilities out the window, react irrationally. Socially oriented businesses are left to pay the price. With the increase in victim numbers worrying is warranted, it is safe to remember that your panic actions will have an impact on the destination both in the short and long run.

Stay informed.

Staying informed to critical and credible news relating to both the crisis and its impacts on the industry is crucial, the information you receive and circulate are both held in high esteem, in an era where almost everyone is a marketer. Checking in with a trusted source like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centre for Disease and Control regularly enables one to be informed with the latest updates. It is also essential to understand the available options concerning your earlier planned vacation and travel. Call your travel consultant to make changes to earlier bookings. Remembering that once the crisis is over, travelling will go through the roof as people will be lusting to travel and see the world.

Consider traveling at a later date.

Other than cancelling your travel plans, your organized event, or seminar, how about you reschedule to a later date when things go back to how they were. It is vital to be considerate of the sector that ranges from transportation, food, and beverage, entertainment, among other connected industries, and the impact of a cancellation on all these players. As the travel industry is trudging on these uncharted territories, most of the industry stakeholders will surely reward those who will have stood by them during their lowest moments. Businesses in the tourism industry are witnessing evaporation in consumer demand, so cancelling at this moment proves to be detrimental to the businesses involved.

Take virtual travels.

Take virtual tours through live streaming, reading books, and articles on travel destinations that you'd love to travel to soon or the ones that you had booked earlier. Google maps and other navigation applications have made it easy for one to travel virtually and half quench their thirst to visit a destination. In this period, one should not lose their curiosity and desire to learn of other countries and cultures; learning the destinations and the primary language is a start if you are not conversant with it. Taking these activities ensures minimal contact with strangers while at the same time enjoying the pleasure that travels bring with it. Try the destination's typical recipes at your home, of which you can go a step further by sharing the content online with your followers.

Travel remotely locally

According to the UNWTO directive by some government to citizens not to travel, will not stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The world governing agency on matters travel and tourism encourage the industry to develop adequate measures that prevent the spread of the virus and, at the same time, support the industry's existence and sustenance. For example, one should consider a no-contact drop-off delivery from local restaurants and businesses, engaging in low social impact tourism activities such as meditation tourism and staying at a remote forest cabin. Travel to faraway destinations while at the same time follow the local government's directives relating to the crisis, such as self-quarantining for the specified duration.

Stay at home

We love to travel; we love to meet and interact with new faces that offer us that warm, welcoming smile to that new destination we've never been to before or keep going to over and over again. Well, given the nature of the current crisis, those are quite some problematic moves at the moment. It is would only be prudent to shelve those immediate travel plans that you had made this week and the few weeks to follow. Staying at home will also help in keeping you and all your loved ones safe from contracting the virus.

Remembering that there are people's lives and future at stake during this time is very paramount and taking your part in helping fight the pandemic. During this time, the Sustainable Development Goal number 17 will be significantly tested on how the world can come together to solve a common problem through partnership and collaboration. Throughout history, humans have been identified as social beings; our strengths as humans is through our cooperation and coming together. The coronavirus is testing the ability to come together and solve the common problem. Remember to take care; keep safe. Wash your hands!

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