Asia Pacific: COVID-19 and The Tourism Sector

Jakarta – The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented crisis for the tourism industry and the millions of people across the Asia Pacific whose livelihoods depend on it.

As international travel has ground to a halt, every single facet of the industry has been impacted by the crisis, and its value chain has been severely hit as countries have been forced to discourage both international and domestic travel. The magnitude of the impact is immense in terms of the potential shrinkage of revenues, GDP and jobs.

This report aims to aid tourism recovery by providing policymakers and donors innovative and best practice examples of policy response. The report presents policy responses in 5 developing destinations spread across South and Southeast Asia:

  • Cambodia;
  • Nepal;
  • Sri Lanka;
  • Thailand;
  • Vietnam.

The report provides a practical policy review of the destinations’ responses, focusing on five dimensions:

  • Early response and public health management;
  • Support for economic resilience and small and medium enterprises (SMEs);
  • Enhanced support to the tourism sector;
  • Tourism sector revitalisation policies and plans;
  • Green growth and sustainability measures.

To do so the report relies primarily on desk research as the countries’ policy responses have been well- documented in media reports and other public sources. To validate and enrich findings, interviews were also conducted with key industry leaders or policymakers from national tourism organisations or other well-placed stakeholders. In consultation with interviewees, the report further identifies gaps in the destinations’ policy responses and opportunities for donor support and assistance.

This report concludes that an orderly and strategic policy response can mitigate the worst of the crisis’s negative impacts. In some cases, policy may even lay a foundation for healthier, more sustainable post-pandemic growth. Key insights presented include:

  • Destinations in South and Southeast Asia are struggling to contain the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic’s shock to their tourism industries and economies.
  • Many tourism SMEs will not survive, and some larger national and international players are at risk.
  • Governments have employed a range of fiscal and monetary measures in support of the travel and tourism sector.
  • Government commitments range widely 2 – 12 percent of GDP, with larger investments predictably yielding better results.
  • Another critical success factor has been the presence of robust social protection/crisis response infrastructure.
  • Early management of public health outcomes has framed the availability of later policy options.
  • Fiscal and monetary measures have varied in magnitude not character.
  • Domestic tourism has been harnessed as a primary fiscal stimulus and recovery tool by some of the countries.
  • Using training incentives to retain workforce, a policy priority for many, has only worked in Thailand.
  • Some of the countries under review have utilized the crisis as an opportunity to build back better and more sustainably.
  • Recognizing that international tourism will someday return, tourism sector revitalization is a priority for all destinations. (PATA)

Download The Full Report here