​​​​​​Coronavirus impact on tourism illustrates risks of globalisation

14Feb 2020
The Guardian
​​​​​​Coronavirus impact on tourism illustrates risks of globalisation

TANZANIA National Parks’ (Tanapa) expectations of earnings are said to be on a free fall during and likely to remain so for a while, partly owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tanapa has declared that it will not be able to meet its earnings target for this financial year following a rise in the cancellation of trips to various tourism hotspots owing to the scare.

It has reported that earnings have dwindled because the global travel industry has slumped. People are worried about going to China and apparently about going anywhere. That looks like the real explanation.

So far, it is only in China that the disease is causing tremendous dislocation and extensive disturbance, while a few other countries are counting a handful of screened cases.

Tanzania has no such case screened so far, and Kenya – with an appreciably greater reach in air travel quantity – was said to have isolated one suspected case of the virus.

It all means that there is little correlation between the real threat of coronavirus and the extent of travel impact globally, as Tanzania can’t have been targeted alone in that regard. Overreacting is a facet of globalization.

Still the conservation commissioner pointed out other challenges now facing tourist visits, especially torrential rains, as a deterrent for tourists. Most roads leading to and around national parks were damaged by floods, this reducing the number of visitors touring those destinations. It was a little earlier than the virus scare.

It is possible that some other issues could have been raised to explain the slump in arrivals, especially because the Wuhan viral outbreak isn’t really adequate to explain cancellations in a cascade manner.

Likely negative advisories by tourism companies worried about the state of roads could more directly explain the situation, but it is hard to figure out the scale of such road damage, as minor landslides can be cleared by bulldozers within a few hours and some hard surface restored in a day or two. In that case there were auxiliary or attendant factors too.

One can’t avoid the feeling that blanket travel bans and advisories, restrictions on visa access or emigration visa card eligibility may have to do with the cancellations.

It is to paint a bad image of a country, creating the impression that the security of tourists can’t be assured. At the same time, travel firms wish to please governments where they operate, so they can advise tourists to go elsewhere and report the same to the respective government departments, aware that they will satisfied with their efforts.

There is something ironic about these developments, such that those we intensely compete with in the tourism sector aren’t feeling any such crunch.

But chances are some countries may cut a better image with important foreign powers and thus avoid blacklisting. So the travel ban is something else that haunts tourism, not just the virus as some authorities have explained.

It is something our diplomats shall have to explain, even if they don’t have the same reach as our ‘black imagers’.

Top Stories