New Delhi: The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the factors that make a country's travel and tourism sector competitive. Certain parameters such as healthcare capacity and digital travel offerings are increasing in importance during the pandemic.
"COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the travel and tourism sector, with some parts of the sector effectively shut down completely. Considering that tourism accounts for nearly 10 percent of the world's jobs, it's important that countries take serious measures to ensure their tourism is competitive and ready to bounce back as COVID-19 measures are rolled back and countries begin to reopen," said Christoph Wolff, head of mobility at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Analysis from the WEF shows that some regions and countries may need to review tourism from a whole new point of view – especially with health infrastructure in mind.
The current downturn is having a major effect on economies heavily dependent on tourism. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the travel and tourism industry accounts for 10.2 percent of GDP in the Latin America and Caribbean region. In some countries, such as Jamaica, tourism accounts for a much higher percentage of GDP.
"Tourism slowdowns give policy-makers and business leaders in the region a chance to reassess their tourism practice and policies, especially in infrastructure and unsustainable tourism development, which are particular risks to the region's long-term tourism resilience," WEF said.
In the light of the pandemic, travel competitiveness in Latin America may have taken a hit.
Europe and other countries with more ample health resources have a better chance of containing and managing COVID-19 cases than other countries with less-developed health resources, potentially speeding up a safe reopening of their travel sector.
"Similarly, higher ICT readiness will allow tourism companies and their supply-chain partners to provide more services digitally – a growing advantage when person-to-person interactions are constrained. Competitiveness components such as a favourable business environment and labour markets can also act as supply-side stimuli, generating relief, and accelerating the recovery.
"Latin America and Caribbean countries can use this time to re-evaluate their tourism development projects and build for a better sector in the future. For example, opportunities exist within their infrastructure gap. Good air transport is critical to Latin America's travel competitiveness, especially considering the region's hard-to-traverse terrain. Pandemic shutdowns have further slowed infrastructure projects but also offer an opportunity for countries in the region to reassess their ongoing projects and direct attention to the most critical areas. Building infrastructure for a better balance between tourism and local demand will be particularly important," WEF said.