As I write this, South Korea has reported 347 cases of coronavirus in just one day. Italy is the worst-affected country in Europe, where the virus has killed two people and infected another 77. Iran has shut schools and cultural centres after the death toll reached six, the highest outside China. Japan has been severely hit with 750 cases, the highest outside China. Most of the people infected in Japan are passengers or crew members of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship which has been docked in Yokohama. On February 22, the virus was identified in two new countries, Lebanon and Israel, bringing the spread to 28 countries, with about 1500 confirmed cases outside of China, where it originated. China stands at 76,000+ cases and 2400+ deaths.
The high profile Mobile World Congress in Barcelona had to be cancelled; Tokyo Marathon also fell victim to the virus. Aviation industry will take a $30 billion hit. Cruise and hotel industries have also been badly bruised.
While many may say it is ‘apocalypse’ of travel and tourism business, nothing could be far from the truth. For starters, ITB Berlin (March 4-8) and Tokyo Olympics 2020 (July 24-August 9) will go ahead as planned.
Coronavirus has been reported as cured in eight countries of the 28 which have at least one case. There are 165 countries across all continents with no coronavirus. At least half of them are in the tourism business. To name a few, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vatican City and Zimbabwe could be on your ‘safe travel’ itinerary.
Macau re-opened casinos on February 20 after halting operations over coronavirus scare for two weeks. Macau has not reported any new cases of the virus since February 4. Cruise liners have tweaked itineraries and airlines and hotels are subscribing to safe practices.
It will take over a year to develop the vaccine. So ‘safe tourism’ seems to be the only option.
We have heard at numerous travel conferences that tourism is a globally unifying force building bridges between nations and people. Now is the time to walk the talk. By discarding fake news and resisting fear-mongering. And indulging in safety protocols to ensure travel and tourism thrives, come what may.