Five reasons why supporting the tourism industry in times of COVID-19 is an act of responsibility
Updated: Sep 26
Reason #1: The economy
Although COVID-19 has disrupted all industries around the world, tourism is the hardest hit business sector. Tourism is one of the most important drivers of many national and regional economies. For example, the Spanish tourism industry provides 2.8 million jobs and produces 176 billion euros a year (14.6% of the Spanish GDP) Due to the pandemic, tourism in Spain will make less than €40 billion in 2020, and more than 750,000 people may lost their jobs towards the end of 2020. A similar fate is shared by regions like Finnish Lapland where tourism is one of the most important industries. Tourism in Lapland generates one billion euros yearly and 10 000 of jobs. According to a recent survey, 60% of tourism businesses in Lapland expect to shut down after the winter season if foreign tourists don't arrive. Tourism represents 10.3% of the global GDP and employs more than 300 million people worldwide. If tourism goes down the drain, so does the economy of many countries and regions.
Reason #2: Gender equality
The majority of people employed in tourism worldwide are women. They tend to be young and concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs in the industry. Despite the vulnerable position of women in the industry, tourism is considered as a vehicle for promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in society. Tourism can contribute to increasing women’s economic empowerment, participation in community life and decision making. Indeed, female entrepreneurship not only contributes to creating individual and household income but can also change the decision-making within entire communities. As a result, the higher the negative impact of COVID-19 on tourism, the bigger the setbacks for gender equality in society.
Reason #3: Animal welfare
Not only human beings, but also millions of animals work in the global tourism industry. Animals have become a very important part of tourism and leisure experiences. They can be in captivity ( zoos), in the wild (bear watching) or as part of tourism activities (horseback riding). Horses, camels, and donkeys among other animal species working in tourism have been hit hart by the pandemic. For example, there are approximately 10 000 animals working in the tourism industry in Lapland. Around 70% of them are huskies and 15% reindeer. Unfortunately, animals cannot be laid off like human employees. Since animals need constant care and attention, animal workers may end up being euthanized if tourist numbers remained plummeted.
Reason #4: Environmental protection
Although tourism has been criticized for its negative environmental impact, it has also been acknowledged for its contribution to the protection of nature and wildlife. Indeed, many national parks and conservation areas rely heavily on tourism income. As a recent study shows, the current loss of income due to a lack of tourism is creating restrictions on the operations of conservation agencies, challenges for controlling poaching activity and thus, protecting wildlife from human intrusion. Furthermore, a damaged tourism industry can increase pressure on nature and wildlife as countries and regions may try to revitalize their economies and replace the lost of tourism income by developing more exploitative industries such as mining, forestry and intensive agriculture among others. Therefore, the lack of tourism income can foster the depletion of natural resources, destruction of ecosystems, biodiversity loss and pollution.
Reason #5: Tourism doesn't operate in a vacuum
Tourism is not an isolated industry, but it overlaps with every other economic sector. In places where tourism is prevalent tourists make up a considerable proportion of the customers of local retail shops, grocery stores, gas stations, and other service providers which are not directly viewed as part of the tourism industry. Tourism demand has also a direct impact on the construction sector, IT-sector and real state. The connection between tourism and other economic sectors is important particularly in remote and rural areas where services and infrastructure are maintained due to the tourism industry. Therefore, the impact of COVID-19 on tourism will be reflected in other economic sectors and the quality of life of people living in regions highly dependent on a regular flow of tourists.
Considering the reasons presented above, there is an urgent need to adopt proactive measures and policies to mitigate the market disruptions and keep tourism companies afloat during the pandemic. A failure to do so will have serious consequences for both the tourism industry and society at large.