COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented collapse of the tourism industry in countries across the Asia Pacific region. Due to heavy reliance on tourism, several countries in the Asia Pacific region are facing difficulties in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the sector.
The Asia-Pacific region consists of some of the leading tourist destinations in the world including Indonesia, Vietnam, Nepal, Maldives, and Singapore. After almost 4 months of lockdown, workers in tourism-related services in these countries are facing an increased risk of economic crisis, including the fear of falling into poverty.
As these countries gradually resume their economic activities, the tourism sector is expecting to revive from severe losses. From the Indonesian island of Bali to Vietnam and Australia, countries are relaxing their rules on domestic and international travel. However, even after several relaxations, tourism is at its lowest due to the fear of virus transmission among tourists. Furthermore, a number of countries have resumed their tourism sectors to domestic travellers only, putting a cap in international travel to combat the spread of virus.
In countries like Hong Kong, the number of tourists went down by 80% after the administration closed down its borders in March. Bustling beaches of island states like Bali, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Tonga appear empty with a shortage of tourists. Restrictions and stringent rules in public activities, bars, restaurants and hotels are also keeping tourists away from these holiday destinations. In Japan, virus outbreaks spread across the country after a surge in travel during the summer holidays.
It is important to understand that the tourism-dependent Asia-Pacific SIDS (small island developing states) are in need of a fiscal stimulus to restart their operations after facing massive losses. From providing typical stimulus programmes such as wage subsidies and financing to small businesses and MSMEs to announcing compensation package for workers and employees in the informal sectors, governments can take various steps to ensure the well-being of local populations and survival of tourism businesses across the region.
International travel was largely restricted across the world to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus. In the aftermath of the pandemic crisis, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which make up approximately 80% of the global tourism sector, are critically affected. According to the United Nations World Tourism Barometer, the global tourism industry lost $320 billion in revenues in the first five months of the year 2020 after international travel came to an abrupt hald due to the pandemic.