By Hasnain Noorani
The whole world is groaning under the impact of the rapid spread of the COVID-19, which has struck more than 160 countries and killed thousands of people. The rate of spread across a globalised financial, political and social architecture sets this particular pandemic apart from any other in modern times, it has indeed impacted travel and tourism like no other event before in history.
Less affected countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and elsewhere have rushied to take draconian measures to tame the rapid outbreak of the epidemic. In a matter of two months, Covid-19 has reshaped our ideas about being socially connected, economically entangled and existentially unprepared for radical change.
Considering the rate and global spread of infections by Covid-19 and the related sense of panic, small and medium sized enterprises which make up around 80% of the tourism sector have been particularly impacted. This has affected thousands of livelihoods across Kenya and millions across the world, including vulnerable communities who rely on tourism as a vehicle to spur their development and economic inclusion.
While COVID-19 is impacting all industries, tourism and hospitality sector has experienced the most impact to date given increasing travel restrictions, major event cancellations and overall risk aversion to travel internationally and domestically. The benefits that hotel industry brings are under threat. Even whilst fire-fighting through the immediate impact, it’s also time to think to the future and recovery planning.
Due to its cross-cutting economic nature and deep social footprint, tourism is uniquely positioned to help societies and communities affected return to growth and stability. Over the years, the sector has consistently proven its resilience and its ability not only to bounce back as a sector but to lead the wider economic and social recovery. This depends on adequate political support and recognition.
The impact of COVID-19 on both Mombasa and Coastal region at large is significant and serious causing a lot of anxiety and concern for the business community in general. That said, Mombasa as a tourist destination, has been much harder hit as a seasonal destination, Mombasa businesses make money they need to survive the year mainly through tourism.
Unprecedented times need well-thought solutions. I don’t want to suggest that there’s an easy fix. And the response will need to be tailored for each destination. But it’s clear that getting our story out clearly and as early as possible is crucial. Encouraging visitors and investors to return to our cities is fundamental to regaining our economic footing, and to do that, we need to inspire trust in the strength of our place and our community.
Though it’s early days, we can already see some countries on the fringe of the coronavirus epidemic working to share their own stories. A number of business owners in the Arashiyama region in Kyoto Japan, for example, have launched an ‘empty tourism’ campaign, highlighting the lack of crowds at popular tourist sites.
No one knows as yet the extent of the economic impact of the pandemic. What is certain is that the paralysis of air traffic, the shutdown of tourism activities in almost all markets and destinations, the disruption of supply chains originating from or going through China, the rush to purchase goods in anticipation of more restrictions, and the possible disruption of the labor market in many countries, all of these will have a resounding negative impact on production and consumption and on global economic growth in 2020 and even in 2021.
The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn group of Hotels.