Amid a global pandemic that's strained medical systems and economies, the travel sector is currently taking one of the biggest hits of all. As people are locked down at home, airlines have grounded all their fleets and airports have become deserted. The pandemic has brought travel to a standstill everywhere around the world. While the technological revolution has made travel and tourism easy and affordable, even technology is currently standing helpless at halting the virus that’s demanding only for people to take shelter. One billion trips a year – the annual average of travel – were suddenly canceled and brought to a grinding halt. For travelers stuck at home, having to cancel all their travel plans, this definitely sucks; but, on the other side, it’s actually a much bigger problem.
The lack of travel is causing massive job and revenue losses, even to the biggest names in the industry. Lonely Planet, the travel publication giant, has announced closing off two offices in London and Melbourne having no other option but to lay off workers to make up for the losses. They’ve also stopped publishing the Lonely Planet magazine and other lines. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the trade group representing major global travel companies, if the pandemic continues for more months, they project a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue. Losses come daily, bringing real and profound worry to millions of families affected around the world. As of April 2, British Airways is reportedly poised to suspend 36,000 staffers. The U.S. Travel Association projects a loss of 4.6 million jobs through May in one of the hardest hits to the industry as Las Vegas casinos and jumbo hotels have gone dark.
With so much at stake, companies are currently facing the ultimate conundrum: to cut wages or to lay off labor. The travel industry is built around the idea of a trouble-free future. There’s no plan B, there are only plans for the eternal blue skies, open borders, and high tourism demand, so defying the downs is not the easiest thing to do. The IATA estimates that global air transport industry revenues could fall by $252 billion, 44 percent below 2019’s numbers. Hotels and restaurants are also suffering, with big names such as Marriott losing as much as 75 percent in revenue.
While Egypt’s tourism sector was thriving, this global pandemic is bringing on a recession that’s unprecedented. It’s hard to imagine that the deserted hotels and cruises in Luxor and Aswan were fully booked a few weeks ago; the hotels in Marsa Alam that are currently used for quarantining were crowded with tourists enjoying the warmth of the winter sun in Egypt. Several experts have estimated that Egypt is losing one billion dollars for every month with no tourists, after losing 400,000 tourists who spent four million nights every month at Red Sea resorts. As hotels, companies, restaurants, bazaars, and cafes in the Red Sea have closed their doors since the outbreak, over 200,000 workers have lost their jobs. Even with the government's commitment to avoiding laying off workers or deducting their salaries amid the coronavirus outbreak. As the government has taken the decision to close down hotels in all touristic areas, they have been offering support to alleviate the weight of this economic crisis. So when one hotel was found to have failed in paying employee wages, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El Anani revoked its license. So far this is handled well, but this is definitely a temporary solution for a God-knows-how-long-lasting problem.
Will there be light at the end of the tunnel? It depends on how we handle this. The focus is to support businesses large and small as the world economy slides into a recession. In one way or another, the travel sector worldwide is not built to handle this for much longer. For now, all we can do is window-shop some trips for the future. Because, when this is all over, we’re going to make up for the lost time by traveling – now it’s also for a good cause.