Travel is so much more than a long haul ticket to a highly anticipated, much revered, exotic destination. The long arms of the travel industry stretch far beyond airlines and beach resorts, all-inclusives and adventure holidays. The impact that the travel industry has on the world cannot be underplayed. So the massive loss in its revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic is having far reaching consequences.
According to The World Travel and Tourism Council, 10.3% of global GDP, amounting to 330 million jobs ( that’s 1-in-10 ) around the world were directly or indirectly related to tourism during 2019. Volunteering, eco-packing, gap years, family trips; getting away from the grind and reality of our daily lives is what the majority of the employed world looks forward to each year.
It is, sadly, unsurprising that falling into as complex a crisis situation as that of the current pandemic, and its incipient impact, has seen the tourism industry one of the first and worst hit.
Beyond the headlines of positive air quality, quiet streets, and nature returning, lies the individual and collective loss of finance for tourist operators and associated businesses around the globe. Focus is often on large-scale business operators like Virgin or The Hilton Group and the impact of this pandemic on their annual revenue. However, the backbone of the industry is the multitude of small-scale providers and their employees, who are now facing crippling financial insecurity alongside the potential collapse of financially modest but vitally important conservation projects around the world.
Not only do these small conservation projects offer employment to local people and care to regional wildlife, they also maintain a holistic grasp on environmental education, for both paying tourist volunteers and community members. Feeding the global environmental conversation and spotlighting areas of potential benefit and change for local families ensures that at a grassroots level people can find ways to coexist with their animal neighbours. All of this is suddenly at risk, with the ecospheres potentially following soon after.
The high level of dependence on tourism, recent mass-loss of employment and difficulty in accessing the tiny amounts of support funding when and where it is available, is forcing people to revert to poaching for meat and live capture for sale. The survival for the self and family is the only focus for many. This, coupled with reduced numbers of project employees able to patrol those regions with already endangered inhabitants, is creating a cycle of destruction no-one wants yet is currently uncontrollable.
According to Working Abroad, a volunteering, not-for-profit organisation, “any progress made in past years by projects ensuring the survival of particular species and educating people into looking on their native ecosystems as valuable ongoing places to coexist with, rather than destroy for immediate gain, will be eradicated in the face of this new situation.”
The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has far reaching repercussions which are only just coming to light. Well beyond the days of European and US lockdown the weight of the global hiatus on travel will continue to be felt. What bears remembering is that the full weight of a situation is often not felt for a long time.
The time it takes to provide support and recovery to environmental projects can have as much of an impact as the initial problem. Therefore, in order to ensure the planet we return to ‘post-lockdown’ retains its diversity and beauty, a global plan to take the positive environmental gains of the ‘great pause’ must be put in place. We should marry the current environmental benefits that do exist, with this plan. Its objective must be one of repair and growth for local, charitable and small-scale sectors as well as for major players. This bring the best outcome possible out of what is, predominantly, a global disaster.
You can can follow this link to the Working Abroad website: https://www.workingabroad.com/blog/help-and-hope-finding-a-future-amidst-the-impact-of-covid-19/