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Prospects for safe tourism 2020

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Tuesday, June 2
Stopped international travel, tourism and universal restrictions are hitting everyone, small, medium and large businesses.

According to preliminary estimates by the world's largest tour operators, about 8,000 people will be unemployed during the post-coronavirus period. Aviation is also in crisis, and for example one of the largest German airlines in the world, Lufthansa, is asking the government for help to survive and stay in the market. According to a study by the World Council of Travel and Tourism, about 10% of the world's gross domestic product and jobs are generated by the tourism sector.

After all, the crisis is relative, so the most critical situation is in the countries that rely on the tourist dollar. A 25% reduction in tourism revenues will reduce average GDP by 7%, compared to 16% for the Maldives and Seychelles. However, the situation is not good either on the European continent and the European Parliament estimates that the tourism industry is losing about a billion euros.

While the only way to save a business is to open borders and have as many international travelers as possible, it is still the biggest risk that a new wave of coronavirus will start. The fact is that despite the development of safety measures, the virus still continues to exist and travel is becoming increasingly risky.

In 2019, Georgia received $3.3 billion from international tourism. In fact, the tourism industry is the industry most affected by the pandemic. “According to the basic scenario, tourism revenues in Georgia will be reduced by 65% this year,” said in a study published by TBC Capital. The authors of the study believe that in the case of the optimistic scenario (rapid recovery), the annual decrease in tourism revenue may be 55%, but according to the pessimistic scenario (late recovery) -80%.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, said that due to the situation created by the pandemic, three scenarios for the restoration of tourism will be discussed. The first - the borders between the countries will be opened at the end of June and international flights will be resumed worldwide; later, international air traffic will resume at the end of September, and then, the worst-case scenario - 70-90 % of international flights will be resumed at the end of December. According to him, the most realistic and optimistic of these 3 scenarios is probably the second option: “In September, of course, we will not be able to return to the mark where the tourism sector was in February of this year, but we will return somewhere with a 50% decrease, which means that we will go back 7 years.” He said that 100-120 million jobs are at risk worldwide, adding that a more accurate forecast could be made by UNWTO in August.

For reference, in 2019, international tourism revenues were $ 1.5 trillion. According to a recent UNWTO forecast , tourism revenues are expected to fall by $ 910 billion to $ 1.2 trillion this year.

Pololikashvili thinks that the state should provide support and subsidize business operators operating in the tourism sector during the crisis period for at least 3 months: “This is a politically difficult and costly decision, but in our opinion, it is the only way to maintain the balance and the situation that our countries have.”

The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation names the areas where the state should support the representatives of the tourism sector so as not to face liquidity problems; in dealing with commercial banks, as many of them have obligations to banks; and to subsidize their employees and help them avoid losing their jobs.

He said the UNWTO's daily work process with international financial institutions to support member states and develop recommendations.

According to Kakha Samkurashvili, a senior analyst at Galt & Taggart, there will be a 60% decrease in tourists in Georgia.

“We can position ourselves as a safe country, but I think there is no such thing as a safe country today. Risks are everywhere, so it is impossible to neutralize them to the end,” Samkurashvili claims.

Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia has recently announced that in order to enter the Georgian border, a foreign citizen must have passed the COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours in advance. He also mentioned that there will be opportunities inside the country to take PCR tests for rare cases.

PM says this will increase the strength of the Georgian tourism brand, adding the Covid Free status to the country.

The Minister of Health has issued 15th Amendment to the recommendations for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace specify the requirements for tour operators and guides, which they will have to fulfill when serving tourists.

Recently, 2 Georgian cities of Tbilisi and Batumi were named the safest place to travel in Europe in 2020 amongst the cities selected by European Best Destinations, a travel website developed to promote culture and tourism in Europe.

The Washington Post and CNN have already spoken of Georgia’s plans to reopen its economy and boost tourism development after the coronavirus pandemic.

In its article about Georgia the Washington Post says that the country ‘rebrands as a holiday haven from the pandemic’.Discussing which international destinations are reopening to tourists, CNN says Georgia “was experiencing a tourism boom before the coronavirus pandemic, with 5 million travellers visiting in 2019, a 7% increase on the previous year.”

Georgia is planning to resume domestic tourism starting June 15th and receive international tourists starting July 1st.