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Global Tourism to Support Recovery of Air Travel

by Ajay Prakash

Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali. Photo: Bali Airport

Yesterday (September 27) was World Tourism Day. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his address said that after the unprecedented crisis, restarting tourism is essential. His message is reproduced below.

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Message (partly reproduced)  from the Secretary-General, United Nations on the Occasion of World Tourism Day – Source: UN Website

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation Zurab Pololikashvili stated –

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Our sector is among the hardest hit with millions of jobs at risk. As we join forces to restart tourism, we must live up to our responsibility to ensure that tourism’s benefits are shared by all. This crisis is an opportunity to rethink the tourism sector and its contribution to the people and planet; an opportunity to build back better towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient tourism.”

The aviation industry is the backbone of the tourism industry.  The two complement each other. Tourism depends on transportation to bring visitors, while the transportation industry depends on tourism to generate demand for its services.

As per Statista, 4.54 billion passengers travelled by air in 2019.  According to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), 1.5 billion tourist arrivals were recorded in the same year. Fifty-eight per cent (58%) of the tourists travelled by air (Fig.1). That indicates that leisure flyers generate about twenty per cent (20%) air traffic. Let us review the current status of global air travel and the tourism industry.

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Figure 1 – International Inbound Tourism – Source: World Tourism Organization ©Statista 2020

Passenger Traffic Growth

In September, IATA released the passenger traffic details for July 2020.

The key observations are –

1. On the Year on Year basis (July 2020 vs July 2019) the global passenger revenue is down by 79.8%. On a year-to-date (January to July 2019 vs 2020) the revenues are down 61.9%.
2. The travel demand is increasing in the domestic segment. Notably, domestic traffic in Russia and China has increased significantly over June 2020.
3. The best recovery in domestic traffic is in the American continents. Table 1 below shows the inter-continent drop (-81.6%) in passenger traffic on a year-on-year basis.

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Table 1: YoY Variation in Passenger Volumes by Origin & Destinations (as on September 6, 2020) – Source ForwardKeys

Barring Europe, there are hardly any leisure flyers. The data shows that people are still wary of flying on International segments unless extremely necessary. Much of the International passenger traffic has been generated by returning nationals and their families. People are still afraid to fly for fear of contracting COVID-19 while travelling on a flight.

Governments and the industry are putting in their best efforts to devise solutions for increasing air travel.

Flex and Lower Fares from Airlines Will be an Incentive to Travel

According to research undertaken by ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company, airlines in Europe are coming up with attractive fare deals. Airfares for travel within the European Union, including the UK, are now fifteen per cent (15%) cheaper. Airfare deals were priced between twenty-five (25%) to thirty-five per cent lower (35%) to popular tourist destinations such as Greece, Spain and Italy.

Avoiding Quarantine on Arrival – IATA’s goal

IATA has been urging governments to avoid quarantine for passengers arriving into the country. Quarantine is the main inhibiting factor for international travel. The Agency also recommends that symptomatic passengers must be discouraged from boarding the flight with strict pre-boarding COVID-19 testing. IATA also favours the implementation of ICAO guidelines for mitigating risks in the case where an infected person does travel. It is self-evident that tourists cannot be quarantined. Unless the Governments heed to IATA’s request, tourism is bound to remain suspended.

Governments Have to Kick-start Tourism

Let us look at the unique experiment of the Indonesian Government, which is aimed at opening up their borders for international tourists soon.

The Indonesian Government is going to spend $1.35 million (IDR 20 billion) on this promotion program called “We Love Bali” as per the Head of the Bali Tourism Agency I Putu Astawa. He further that 4,400 local citizens will be offered free staycations for three days- two nights. The persons will be selected based on their social media presence and activities. The guidelines given by the Government are –

  • Social media users from several different backgrounds and professions, such as teachers, lecturers, students, government employees, travel agencies, photographers, influencers and news media will be invited.
  • Aged 18-50
  • Active in at least one social media platform, like Facebook, Instagram or Tiktok with a minimum of 2,000 followers.
  • Consistently post their activities while implementing the new health protocols during the trip.
  • Provide a rapid Coronavirus test which was conducted a maximum of seventy-two hours before joining the trip. The cost of the test will be reimbursed.

However, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Panjaitan said that Indonesia would not open up for International tourists until the end of 2020.

Passenger recovery will be an all-round coordinated and concerted effort. The entire travel and hospitality industry has to get together and device ways and means to woo back traveller. The Governments have to play a pivotal role and provide conducive environments that complement the efforts of the industry.

How soon will you be taking a vacation? Do write to us in the comments section below.

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