The impact of COVID-19 on global tourism industriesThe tourism industry incorporates many industries, including transport, accommodation, travel companies, food and drink services, and more. All of these industries were impacted in some way by the pandemic. When it came to transport, airlines saw an unprecedented drop in passengers due to travel bans and customer uncertainty. Meanwhile, hotel occupancy rates dropped across all regions worldwide from March 2020 onwards. Short-term rental bookings made through travel companies, Booking, Airbnb, and Expedia also saw a decline as a result of the pandemic. When the global public was asked in May 2020 about what would improve the comfort levels of hotel customers during COVID-19, the majority cited increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Lastly, not just affected by a loss of tourism but also local customers, the restaurant industry was also hit hard, with the number of sit-down diners worldwide plummeting at the start of 2020.
That being said, figures across all segments did not continually remain in decline but fluctuated throughout the year depending on the number of new coronavirus cases and regulations in different regions.
How did the tourism industry change as a result of COVID-19?In order to survive, the tourism industry had to adapt to the new reality of the pandemic. For many of its segments, this meant embracing technology. When surveyed, 65 percent of travelers from the United States said that accommodations would need to use the latest technologies to make travelers feel safe. A country that felt even more certain of this was India, with 81 percent of respondents saying so. Additionally, over half of hotel guests stated that they would prefer to check in/out via a hotel app, rather than risk doing so in person.
For those that still wanted to travel, it was made much more difficult in the wake of the pandemic. The leading barrier to global travel, as of March 2021, was government legislation and restrictions. To combat this, several countries began to discuss the introduction of digital health passports in 2021, aiming to facilitate travel during the health crisis while minimizing the risk of spreading the virus. While some of the public backed this idea, others were less certain about the use of digital passports. When surveyed in February 2021, roughly 38 percent of global respondents expressed concerns linked to security risks with personal information being hacked.
Ultimately, with the rise of vaccinated members of the public, the tourism industry’s outlook is more hopeful than it was at the start of 2020. However, it is not yet possible to assess the long-term damage caused to this industry by the coronavirus pandemic.