COVID-19, a virus that was first detected in Wuhan of China in late 2019, has put the entire world in uncertainty and chaos. The challenges faced by people during covid-19 crisis is uncontestable. This global pandemic has become one of most notable crises to challenge the health sector, economic sector and wellbeing of people all over the world. With the passing of almost one and half year since the virus was first detected, the world is still crippling, with the onset of second wave in different parts of the world.
Tourism industry is one of the major sectors that has been deeply affected by this deadly pandemic. The overwhelming impact caused by this virus on almost every part of global tourism is a burning issue now. Many governments have imposed severe and strict measures to stop the spread of this deadly virus which includes borders and airway closures along with lockdowns and countless travel restrictions that directly have affected the tourism industry, which in turn is causing a great economic downturn.
Tourism not only provides high volume of jobs for low skilled workers, together with high skilled jobs but it also generates foreign exchange, and drives regional and local development. The travel restrictions affected every sector of tourism, from hotels, or other types of accommodations, restaurants, museums, to small scale tourism businesses. The unprecedented effects on tourism jobs and business has led to near-complete cessation of tourism activities around the world.
There have been massive cancellation of hotels and tourist bookings followed by widespread unemployment, loss of income and threatened livelihoods for millions of people from every corner of the world. According to WTTC, The Travel & Tourism sector has suffered a loss of around 4.7 trillion US dollar in 2020, with the contribution to GDP dropping by a lurching 49.1% compared to 2019. The highest tourist generating countries like Costa Rica, France, USA, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, and Thailand are among the hardest hit with losses in tourism exceeding 3 percent loss in national GDP.
The consequences of COVID-19 in low and middle income countries like Nepal which rely on small number of service industries are deeply worrying. Without exception, like all the countries of the world, tourism of Nepal has also been decimated by this global pandemic. Around 2,00,000 people who are directly employed in hotel, restaurants, trekking, mountaineering, airlines and other tourism subsectors have been directly affected by the restrictions due to pandemic. Considering coronavirus and its health impact, Nepal Government had to cancel the ambitious campaign “Visit Nepal Year 2020” which aimed to bring 2 million tourists in Nepal. The total 1254 registered Hotels (tourist standard), 29 international airlines flying to Nepal, 20 domestic airlines, 2649 registered trekking agencies have been directly impacted and many tourism businesses among them can no longer sustain.
Domestic tourism is assisting to soften the blow, at least partly, and Nepal government is also coming up with plans and actions to restore and revive the sector, protecting business and jobs. In this time of crisis, people from every part of the world have shown unanimity to fight together to rebuild and reemerge. Many countries including Nepal are now developing measures to develop a more sustainable tourism economy post COVID-19 which includes preparing plans to support the strategic recovery of tourism.