Industries in Distress

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The United Nations World Tourism Organization reports global tourism to have lost around $320 billion in reserves from January to May as international arrivals plunged due to lockdowns in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

UNWTO said international visitor arrivals in the first five months of the year fell by 300 billion, a 56 percent drop from the same period last year. This was highlighted by a 98 percent drop in international arrivals in May as countries imposed total lockdowns due to COVID-19. The $300 billion loss in international tourism receipts is more than three times the loss during the global financial crisis of 2009.

“The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries,” UNWTO secretary-general ZurabPololikashvili said. He emphasized that governments have a dual responsibility to prioritize public health while also protecting jobs and businesses.

While tourism is slowly returning in some destinations, UNWTO reported that its confidence index has dropped to record lows, both for the evaluation of the period January to April 2020, and the prospects for the rest of the year.

The group of global experts point to a series of downside risks such as travel restrictions and border shutdowns still in place in most destinations, major outbound markets such as the United States and China being at standstill, safety concerns associated with travel, the resurgence of the virus and risks of new lockdowns or curfews. In addition, concerns over a lack of reliable information and a deteriorating economic environment are indicated as factors weighing on consumer confidence.

Despite the desire to jumpstart tourism, even at the local level, the Philippines currently belongs to the disadvantaged countries due to our government’s wayward strategy and inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government wants to restart the economy but cases are still surging. With neither a clear science-based strategy nor a strong leadership, stakeholders in distressed industries such as tourism will have to brace themselves for a slower recovery than other countries that have been blessed with more responsive and visionary governments.

At this point, all we can do is hope for the best while bracing for the worst.*

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