The travel collapse from the pandemic that hit tourism-dependent economies may just be just beginning.
Tourist destinations from Thailand to Iceland hoped that Covid-19 vaccines would allow countries to reopen their borders and drive a much-needed recovery in 2021. Now, with the launch of vaccines delayed in some places and the emergence of new strains of the virus, It seems more likely that international travel could be stagnant for years.
After declaring 2020 the worst year for tourism on record, with 1 billion fewer international arrivals, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization says prospects for a rebound in 2021 have worsened. In October, 79% of experts surveyed by the agency believed a rebound was possible in 2021. Only 50% said they believed that in January, and 41% did not believe that travel would reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or beyond. .
James Sowane, owner of a transportation company serving tourists in Fiji, called a staff meeting earlier this month and told employees to start looking for other jobs. He recently took advantage of a government assistance program and had brought back some laid off workers, optimistic the vaccines could trigger a travel spike as early as April.
But now, Sowane doesn’t think tourists will return until next year, and he and his wife cannot continue to pay salaries at their company, Pacific Destinations Fiji. You are borrowing from your bank to keep some top employees.