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Evaluation of Pandemic on tourism

Tourism and travel are one of the most affected sectors from COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNWTO, before the pandemic started, international tourist arrival was predicted over 1.4 billion tourists and 3.3% to the global GDP. With coronavirus pandemic expectation could not take place in tourism statistics. Also, according to OECD expected decrease is around 80% in international tourism economy till the end of 2020. 1 Tourism sector was not ready for this pandemic. Most importantly, any other precautions that governments should have taken to protect country since the beginning or even should have predicted this coronavirus pandemic to not have been impacted much then. According to WTTC it will take around 10 to 35 months for tourism and hospitality business to recover. 2

Before this epidemic, our perception to life was different and we could not imagine to live such a crisis. However, this crisis is not a “brand-new” experience for tourism sector. To evaluate the current pandemic crisis, we should first take a look at its history. Which factors have affected global tourism sector so far and how? As cited here, “It is important to note that global tourism has been exposed to a wide range of crises in the past. Between 2000 and 2015, major disruptive events include the September 11 terrorist attacks (2001), the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak (2003), the global economic crisis unfolding in 2008/2009, and the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak. None of them led to a longer-term decline in the global development of tourism, and some of them are not even notable in, with only SARS (-0.4%) and the global economic crisis (-4.0%) leading to declines in international arrivals (World Bank 2020). This would suggest that tourism as a system has been resilient to external shocks. However, there is much evidence that the impact and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be unprecedented.” 3 COVID-19 crisis has a greater impact on international tourism. According to WHO, analysing cases since people who do not show any symptom or showing mild reactions (80%) are much more than people complaining of symptoms of coronavirus (20%). 4 That is why, analysing effects of current pandemic was difficult since there was no precaution for this upcoming pandemic while mobility among countries were highly demanded in pre-pandemic times.

“[...] However, to an extent the rise and fall of academic interest in the relationship between tourism and pandemics is reflective of that of the wider industry and also governments, given that tourism has been affected by disease outbreaks numerous times since the turn of the millennium. Most importantly, there have been several warnings that pandemics posed a major threat to society and tourism from both tourism (Gossling, 2002; Hall, 2006, 2020; Page & Yeoman, 2007; Scott & Gossling, 2015) and health researchers (Bloom & Cadarette, 2019; Fauci & Morens, 2012), as well as government agencies (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017, 2018) and institutions (Jonas, 2014; World Bank, 2012).” 5 As one can easily comprehend from every new tourism incident, tourism is a sector considerably dynamic, multidisciplinary and has plenty of subsectors which affects or can be affected by. Some examples for tourism subsectors are transportation, accommodation, catering, meetings and events, tour operators and travel. Crisis management should have been organized among countries and tourism establishments to protect society from the pandemic. For example, currently UNWTO has shared “Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism” and there are ten crosscutting measures need to be applied for all tourism establishments. They are broadly about protecting guests from COVID-19 with NIPs (Nonpharmaceutical Interventions) 6, implementing new techs and usage of digital communication, protecting health of guests through health insurance, promote local economy and domestic tourism, promote personalized services, manage total capacity. 7 The developing countries are more depended to tourism for the economic growth. After damaging impacts of the pandemic have been realised, UNWTO tourism recovery plan is formed and, in this plan, the viral importance of being ready to any crisis highlighted, like this sentence: “Prepare for crises, build resilience and ensure tourism is part of national emergency mechanisms and systems.” 8

Could COVID-19 be the “final straw” for a change of tourism?

It should be underlined that COVID-19 is not the only “problem” among global tourism. There are other world issues which are not as immediate as COVID-19, but could affect tourism industry in a much larger impact. These are the climate change, pollution, carbon footprint, water resource crisis, plastic usage and lack of waste management issues which have highly impacted (and can impact more in the future) such as cultural and environmental harm, immigrate to other countries (because of drought and flooding), lack of water in the planet. These problems are also current because if authorities do not take evasive actions now, the results will be greater than the current pandemic. “Tourism sector has a high climate and environmental footprint requiring heavy energy and fuel consumption and placing stress on land systems (UNWTO). The map of global carbon movements shows that travelling is largely a high-income affair, and as a result carbon embodied in tourism flows mainly between high income countries acting both as traveller, residence and destinations. About half of the global total footprint was caused by travel between countries with a per capita GDP of more than US$25,000.” 9 This situation has been mentioned many times by United Nations especially in “Covid-19 and Transforming Tourism Policy Brief”: “This crisis also calls for a stronger framework to measure the full impacts of tourism and build evidence-based policies. Tourism could step up data intelligence systems, science-based approaches and assessment mechanisms based on clear indicators and targets, such as the ongoing process to adopt the Measuring Sustainable Tourism Initiative, which aims to measure the three dimensions of tourism sustainability – economic, socio-cultural and environmental – and the UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories” 10

The importance of socio-cultural effect of tourism to society cannot be overlooked and new trends can be developed over this changing effect. As professor of socio-cultural anthropology Nelson Graburn has declared “Using the first-person plural (unafraid to close down the gap between tourists and anthropologists), Graburn (1978) concluded that upon their return, tourists no longer were their former selves: ‘We are a new person who has gone through recreation and, if we do not feel renewed, the whole point of tourism has been missed’. Transformation is thus introduced as an important and, indeed, intrinsic part of the tourist experience: either the tourist experience changes the tourist or it is not a tourist experience at all (see also Graburn, 1983)” 11 While evaluating the current crisis we can remind philosophy of Heraclitus (Greek philosopher of Ephesus) “Panta Rhei”, which means that “everything flows” 12 He said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Tourism has a high potential to trigger changes in societies through “the tourist”. Tourism is a key to transform the current crisis to better conditions for people, culture and environment (UNWTO). According to United Nations “Such transformation would be in line with changing consumer demand. Mountain tourism, nature, heritage, cultural and adventure tourism are predicted to grow rapidly over the next two decades. It is estimated that global spending on ecotourism will increase at a higher rate than the average industry-wide growth. However, this could increase pressure on sensitive environments and heritage sites if not well planned and properly managed. Tourism could also foster more responsible travel behaviour, as promoted by the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.” 13 Tourism behaviour is influenced by a number of factors; personal economic wellbeing and disposable income, changes in cost, perceived health risks, and changed capacities for consumption as a result of pandemic restrictions (Lee & Chen, 2011). 14 Tourist purchase decisions will change according to heath precautions of the destinations. UNWTO has already declared an international code to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 outbreak in international tourism. “International Code for the Protection of Tourists” is for restore tourists’ confidence through a common and harmonized framework. 15

Nehir Önen

1 “Rebuilding tourism for the future: COVID-19 policy responses and recovery”, OECD, October 22, 2020,

2 P.S, Sibi & Das O.P, Arun & B.A, Mohammed, “Changing Paradigms of Travel Motivations Post Covid- 19”, Volume 11, Issue 11, pp. 489-500, November 2020, doi: 10.34218/IJM.11.11.2020.047

3 Stefan Gössling, Daniel Scott & C. Michael Hall, “Pandemics, tourism and global change: a rapid assessment of COVID-19, Journal of Sustainable Tourism”, doi:

4 Andreas Deckert, Till Bärnighausen & Nicholas NA Kyei, “Simulation of pooled-sample analysis strategies for COVID-19 mass testing”, Introduction, WHO, July 6, 2020, WHO | Simulation of pooled-sample analysis strategies for COVID-19 mass testing

5 Stefan Gössling, Daniel Scott & C. Michael Hall, “Pandemics, tourism and global change: a rapid assessment of COVID-19, Journal of Sustainable Tourism”, doi:

6 Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs),

7 “Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism”, UNWTO, May 28, 2020,

8 “Supporting Jobs and Economies Through Travel & Tourism, A Call for Action to Mitigate the Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 and Accelerate Recovery”, III. Preparing for Tomorrow (20.), UNWTO, April 1, 2020,

9 Manfred Lenzen , Ya-Yen Sun, Futu Faturay & Yuan-Peng Ting , Arne Geschke & Arunima Malik, “The carbon footprint of global tourism”, Nature Research, June 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41558-018-0141-x

10 Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism, United Nations, August 2020,

11 Sofia Sampaio, Valerio Simoni & Cyril Isnart, “Tourism and transformation: negotiating metaphors, experiencing change, Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change”, 12:2, 93-101, June 16, 2004, doi: 10.1080/14766825.2014.924674

12 The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia®. S.v. "Panta Rhei." Retrieved December 2, 2020,

13 “Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism”, United Nations, August 2020,

14 Stefan Gössling, Daniel Scott & C. Michael Hall, “Pandemics, tourism and global change: a rapid assessment of COVID-19, Journal of Sustainable Tourism”, doi:

15 “New International Code to Provide Greater Legal Protection for Tourists”, UNWTO, November 2, 2020,

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