Lockdown & Tourism: How COVID-19 Has Impacted A Global Industry

This year, international travel was reduced by 83% in the first three months. As travel hotspots reopen their doors, let’s look into how tourism has been impacted throughout the pandemic on a global scale.

For many, lockdown has put holidays and overseas trips on hold. But how has this impacted the global tourism industry?

It is an undeniable fact that lockdown due to COVID-19 has changed many lives across the world. It has shifted mindsets on topics such as hygiene and personal freedoms, and caused a huge standstill in terms of tourism. Even now, as some restrictions begin to ease – such as the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July in the UK, when many social lockdown restrictions were removed – we can still see the immense impact that lockdown has had on society as a whole.

When many people are experiencing feelings of anxiety and a lack of connectedness during the pandemic, it can be difficult to consider how lockdown is impacting the wider world, such as within the tourism sector. It may sound simple enough – movement has been restricted by global lockdowns, so tourism has been negatively impacted – but different regulations such as the UK’s ‘red, amber, green travel list’ and many countries’ vaccination or negative COVID-19 test requirements mean that the bigger picture for travel and tourism can get a lot more complicated. We can now explore the exact situation and impact – both negative and positive – that lockdown has had on tourism.

An Isolated Industry

It would be blatantly incorrect to label the travel and tourism industries as the only areas of business that have been negatively impacted by the global pandemic. In fact, the BBC has found that global stock shares have been suffering and unemployment has been rising in many different countries, such as Brazil, Canada, and the United States, among others. Clearly, there have been lasting impacts on economies and communities across the world, so what makes tourism such an area of interest with regards to lockdown?

One answer may be that lockdowns appear to have directly impacted tourism, as people have been advised not to leave their homes – let alone leave their countries – in the recent past, and the World Health Organization still advises that some people should postpone travel if they are vulnerable or moving between areas with high transmission rates for COVID-19. Even though we may appear to be regaining our freedoms in many aspects of life, travel and tourism are still seen as a huge question mark by some, with international travel in 2021 was reduced by 83% in the first quarter of the year.

There have been some indications that specific types of tourism will be affected, such as cruises and coach trips, as it is thought that many people won’t be comfortable with travelling in large groups after experiencing social distancing guidelines and knowing that COVID-19 has not completely gone away. But it’s not just business that we have to think about, as employment within tourism has drastically affected real people and their families. For example, the UK’s Office for National Statistics found that young people (between 16 and 24 years old) were highly affected by unemployment within the travel and tourism industry between 2019 and 2020.

A Brighter Future?

Although the figures aren’t particularly encouraging, it’s important to remember that we are constantly moving and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The recent suggestions of ‘Covid Vaccine Passports’ from countries such as the UK mark a move towards managing the pandemic and cautiously moving towards a future where health and safety regulations can co-exist alongside tentative travel and improvements for the tourism industry.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that lockdown has had various positive impacts on the environment, partially due to reduced travel and tourism. With fewer people going on flights and even driving on the roads, air pollution has been reduced, as ‘some cities [in the UK] have seen nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall by up to 60%’. Likewise, there has been reduced air pollution in India, where people have witnessed blue skies and 90% of cities now have ‘satisfactory’ air quality, although these effects may be short-term due to the growth of industry post-lockdown.

On a more individual level, it makes sense that people will be itching to book holidays and flights after their prolonged stays inside due to social distancing rules. Some research has suggested that UK citizens are now more likely to try and get active as well as wanting to book more UK ‘staycations’ that could boost their local economies while potentially lessening the risks of global transmission of COVID-19 infections, as fewer people will be leaving the country to travel.

What Does This Mean For Me?

It’s clear that lockdown has had both positive and negative impacts on the world as a whole and the tourism industry, but how can you apply this knowledge to your own life? The logical way to move forward seems to be keeping your own safety and the safety of those around you in mind – you shouldn’t travel if you’re experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19, for example, and should book a coronavirus test as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated, if possible, is also a crucial part of moving forwards after this pandemic.

It may be wise to limit your travel to your local area or country by going on ‘staycations’ rather than international vacations at first. This can allow you to rediscover the magic of your local area or country, while also boosting the local economy and giving the world a little more time to heal from the pandemic. By being cautious and mindful, you can be part of the positive process of moving forwards after the impact of COVID-19!