Impact of Covid-19 on Tourism, and ways to solve it

30th May, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew

UNWTO says despite the economic burden of COVID-19 restrictions, demand in the context of international tourism will return. The questions are when and where? Questions also revolve around how we got into the crisis, when restrictions will be eased, and how we can rebuild better economies. There is a lot at stake and much uncertainty.

As the coronavirus pandemic has seen lockdowns, suspended travel, and closed borders, Nepal's tourism industry has suffered a lot. The coronavirus pandemic is the worst crisis that tourism has faced since records began. We can see that the pandemic has compelled tourism businesses to choose to be among the two segments. Either hibernating for the foreseeable future or sharply reducing the business size. If too many businesses go under, then the industry may not be in the position to recover quickly when demand returns. The tourism sector including the government should tackle this situation with determination, sufficient resources and most importantly, openness to behavioural change. 

After the pandemic, it's likely the big and the public businesses will survive and even thrive, with access to funds, scale and technology unlike the small and niche businesses/entrepreneurs. On that ground, the government should come up with effective predictions, plans and policies to save every kind of tourism concerned businesses. It's too early to predict if we'll have a deep structural change, but we have no other alternatives. Therefore it is important to plan under extreme uncertainty, across jurisdictions, domains and ministries, as well as across every stakeholder of the tourism industry. 

When and where the industry recovers will depend largely on when the government ease the restrictions. As hard as it may be to imagine this now, there are some potentially positive outcomes of this crisis, and opportunities to make lasting changes that will save the tourism industry while increasing our resilience for the long term. Indeed, I think it is vitally important that we find a way to treat this crisis as a catalyst for change. 

As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, there is an opportunity to set ourselves on the path towards developing and branding Nepal as a destination for Eco-tourism, Responsible tourism, Sustainable tourism, Cultural tourism, and of course adventure and wildlife tourism. This crisis is offering us to rebuild tourism more sustainably. To revive the number of international tourist after this pandemic, tourism concerned organizations should start promoting best practices and showcase their successful efforts because consumers want brands that are ethical and do well for the environment. 

For recovering the decimated tourism revenues we should boost Domestic tourism. 
After the earthquake in 2015, we saw some destinations bloom for domestic tourism – Tilicho, for example. Many other destinations gained popularity for domestic tourism after 2015 earthquake, like Rara, Chitlang, Mardi Himal, Kalinchowk etc. Some psychologists assume that people started exploring and travelling more after 2015 earthquake because they realised the uncertainty of life. If the assumption is true then domestic tourism is likely to have more demand in the post-Covid. 

The domestic market for tourism will not contribute to foreign exchange earnings or export benefits, unlike the International market. However, in tourism, one person's enjoyment becomes livelihood for others. This helps run the economy of the country. Now people should take a holiday and see their own country.

The government has announced a tourism recovery fund. But together with that, the government should also offer advice to businesses on how to pivot to the domestic and other potential markets like India and China. As suggested by NTB, one way to enhance domestic tourism is by introducing Leave Travel Concession (LTC), under which companies provide travel leave to their employees.  New Zealand recently has suggested businesses to shift to a four-day working week to boost domestic tourism. Nepal can also shift from six working days to 5 days working week which not only offer employees with further leisure but also enhance their work efficiency and job satisfaction. This is also time to address the societal well-being of our nation, not just the economic well-being and it is also a fact that labour productivity isn't necessarily linked to longer hours. 



Avhishek Aryal

President of Tourism Student Forum Nepal