Pandemic shoots unemployment in global tourist sector

Business

By CAPosts 31 July, 2020 - 08:10pm 24 views

© Provided by La Jornada An employee takes the temperature of a passenger before boarding a ferry in the port of Ibiza. Photo Afp

parid, With no American visitors to take to the D-Day beaches or the "Castles of the Loire" region, Parisian tour guide Linda Zenou is worried about how she will pay her credit and continue to care for her mother in the coming months of painful austerity.

"My situation is going to get extremely difficult," he said. "We have nothing to live on."

For the growing number of businesses and individuals dependent on global tourism, the question is not when the coronavirus pandemic will end, but how and whether they will survive until the sector achieves its recovery. To try to keep the coronavirus at bay, countries that erected barriers to the arrival of tourists did so at an increasing cost to themselves and to other nations.

"Now it's the survival of the fittest," said Johann Krige, general manager of south Africa's Kanonkop wine estate, where the absence of tourists coming to taste wine threatens dozens of wine estates in the historic town of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town.

"Many are going to go bankrupting because they don't have enough liquidity," Krige said.

Around the world, travelling in the middle of the pandemic is becoming a story of tentative advances in some places and punitive setbacks in others, of "yes" to allowing tourists from latitudes who have fared a little better against Covud-19 but "no" to those from outbreak areas.

The result is a global jumble of changing restrictions and quarantines, all of which impede long-term visibility to payroll-paying companies and all other players in the industry, from trinket sellers to luxury hotels.

In Australia, the Queensland government, home to the Great Barrier Reef, has banned visitors from Sydney since Saturday due to the outbreak in the country's largest city. Queensland tourism official Brett Kapernick predicted that could cause some companies to drop 40% in their income.

"Because of this pandemic, the situation becomes unstable and therefore changing every week," Kapernick said. "A week ago, we didn't think we'd face a border closure with Sydney."

Although the Indonesian island of Bali tentatively opened to domestic tourism on Friday, The beaches of Da Nang in Vietnam were deserted. The city imposed a quarantine on Tuesday to contain an outbreak of nearly 100 cases.

In the absence of tourism sustenment, some businesses seem already doomed. Many luxury hotels in the historic center of Rome did not reopen in late spring, when Italy began to allow the arrival of tourists from other european countries and a select number of nations. Early in the pandemic, Italians who worked for years as dining staff, cooks or maids in hotels better sought employment in farms to collect fruits and vegetables.

On Portugal's Algarve coast, individual catastrophes loom over empty hotel, bar and restaurant staff who are losing hope that tourists will return quickly enough to keep them afloat. In a region that is almost entirely dependent on tourism, the unemployment rate has increased by 230%.

And in Oxford, England, tour operator Frederick Laurie makes the most of in-house vacationers, who he optimistically describes as "green shoots" in a year that has been bad. Laurie acknowledges that the numbers of these tourists will never compensate for the collapse in foreign visitors that once flooded the university town before they were driven away by the coronavirus.

"It's an extremely difficult time for us," he said. His decade-old company Footprints Tours recorded a 70% drop in revenue.

Global losses total billions of dollars. Percent drops of visitors often reach double digits. Tourism income in South Africa fell 98% in May compared to the same month last year, says the Tourism Business Council, and more than half a million jobs are in danger in the sector.

Governments in tourism-dependent countries are trying to use financial bailouts to keep business afloat. Thailand's cabinet approved more than $700 million projects for the tourism industry this week. Bulgaria is offering tax cuts and employment subsidies to shore up its tourism sector that is preparing to make large cuts between its workforce of 290,000 people. Hotel owners regret having more employees than guests in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria's largest spa.

The dozens of islands in the Caribbean depend on tourism for between 20% and 80% of their GDP, but hotel occupancy in the region is currently less than 10%, according to officials. In order to compensate for lost tourism, Barbados is offering one-year visas to those who want to temporarily live on the island and work from home near the beach.

The positives in the midst of the pandemic are few. Among them, locals who cannot or do not want to travel are rediscovering attractions that foreign tourists were eager to know.

In South Africa, animals have for themselves the famous wildlife reserves due to the suspension of activities, including the prohibition on the arrival of international tourists and the penalization of South Africans travelling between holiday provinces. In Kruger National Park, lions sleep without anyone disturbing them on the roads and wandering through empty shelters, while elephants walk wherever they please.

At the Louvre Museum in Paris, it is now possible to take a leisurely look at the works of art. That's an out-of-the-box side for Parisians, but a nightmare for tour guides, who protested again this week, dressed in black and in masks, to demand more financial assistance. Among them was Janice Baneaux, who was pessimistic about her future.

"Some people had to sell their homes, return to their parents and wait until next year when tourism is likely to recover," he said. "But this year there is no hope."

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