The world’s largest industry on virtually all economic measures – gross output, value added, capital investment, employment, and tax contributions – has been the most affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The IMF has concluded that the global economy would experience its “worst recession since the Great Depression, surpassing that seen during the global financial crisis a decade ago.” What is apparent is that almost every country would like to expand its tourism sector, but concurrently also has to operate in this “new sort of global economy” to confront the challenges to competitive advantage.
In a developing country like Mauritius, tourism is of course a significant player, while it equally remains vulnerable to changing market realities that COVID-19 brings. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating not only for Mauritius, but all over the world, bringing it to a standstill. By April 2020, “100% of worldwide destinations had put travel restrictions in place”. With the closure of borders, repercussions have been felt in the different sectors of the Mauritian economy, including its social fabric. The impact of cancelled events, shutting down attractions, cafés and restaurants, sports events, hotels, accommodations, public transport, and meetings became part of the hospitality value chain. Although the effects of the outbreak will be long-lasting, Mauritius is doing its utmost to combat the pandemic with courage, solidarity, confidence, and close surveillance.
Estimates by Statistics Mauritius so far indicate that tourist arrival in Mauritius for January 2020 were 137, 419 as compared to same period of last year, an increase of 12.4%. Being a major engine of growth, the country had also witnessed in January a strong performance in foreign exchange earnings. Can it really be beneficiary in the future? What about rising levels of poverty, levels of unemployment, increased social unrest, trade-dependent developing and emerging economies? In many countries, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has raised the risks of a global economic recession. De facto, it could be that global trade dropped down by “13% to 32% depending on the depth and extent of the global economic downturn”. Nevertheless, the full impact might be unknown until the effects of the pandemic peak.
In many business sectors, public and private sectors have understood that “it will no longer be business as usual” as it will be different, transformative for them to adapt, to stabilise their workforce, customers, and markets. Quite honestly, it is hard for many sectors right now, and at the same time, the new reality must be adjusted with societal and business behavioural change so as not to shrink more. The new challenges facing the tourism industry are not just to create strategies but instead remain crucial to improve its competitiveness, to use appropriate natural resources that have lesser impact on its population, the environment, and involving comprehensive management approaches. To an extent, it is a reflective part as a global tourism destination where the need to balance tourism potential can reach a far more in-depth and better understanding if given the right adaptation strategies.
What are the potential costs of tourism?
The full costs associated with tourism are very difficult to measure but those can be related to operating businesses and environmental factors. Today, the challenge is to remain competitive within a sustainable development context, that is the need for a closer dialogue is needed at the regional and international level for the freedom to travel again. What are the factors and policies considered to develop the tourism sector? Some of them are as follows:
(a) Human, cultural, and natural resources;
(b) Safety, security, health, and hygiene all under regulatory framework;
(c) Price competitiveness, business environment, air transport, and infrastructure;
(d) Focus on new emerging demand and rejuvenate tourism supply;
It is important to develop meaningful partnerships with private sectors and benign measures at grass root level and to review long-term vision and to set goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes. A new era of collaboration is needed to increase Mauritius’ market share to raise its domestic and international profile sustainably, for instance by putting a strong focus on our supply side issues, that is: Where are we? What are the major gaps, needs and challenges? Are we achieving the outcomes we want? In addition, key players do not comprise of just stakeholders, the government, associations, corporate analysts or strategists but we, as humans, also thrive for the reputation and success of Mauritius’ long-term tourism industry.
A more transformative response does not just require investment but equally depends on the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as having the right competitive and sustainable policies to the greatest extent possible to shape the tourism sector accordingly. We all need to sustain for the business continuity through exchange of knowledge, joint effort and work, technology, creation of networks, and responsible behaviour.
• IATA. 2020.COVID-19 updated impact assessment, 14 April.
• UN Conference on Trade and Development: https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2370
• The World Travel and Tourism Council:https://wttc.org/
• Statistics Mauritius – http://statsmauritius.govmu.org/English/Publications/Pages/Monthly-Tourist-Arrival.aspx
• World Economic Outlook Update, International Monetary Fund, June 24, 2020.
• Global Economic Effects of COVID-19