The world has entered a new era of epidemic risk and the coronavirus pandemic is a multinational crisis affecting every aspect of life and society. If anything, Covid-19 manifests how vulnerable we are to any political, sociocultural, economic and environmental risk factor.
People are dying, countries are going into lockdown, the stock market is plunging and airlines around the world are cancelling flights and slashing as much as 50 per cent of their fleets.
The economic impact is mounting as the world grapples with the new order while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) warning the virus presents the biggest danger to the global economy since the 2008 financial crisis, what does it all really mean for Australia, Greece and the rest of the world and how vulnerable are we in the fight against an “invisible” enemy?
After Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of an unprecedented, indefinite level-four travel ban for the entire world with travel advise for all Australians wanting to go overseas summarised in one sentence, “Do Not Travel”.
“We have already seen the first major impacts of the virus outbreak in every aspect of our life; economic, political, educational, interpersonal. The tourism industry is also taking a massive hit,” explains UniSA’s Tourism Professor Marianna Sigalas in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
There are currently more cancellations than bookings, meaning that tourism companies are facing a reversed cash flow.
Tourism and transport firms are giving their staff annual leave, unpaid leave and are delaying or postponing staff payments whilst tourism firms, airlines and travel agencies are relaxing their booking rules and policies (enabling last minute cancellations, no deposit policies) in an attempt to encourage people to travel.
“Tourism is interrelated with travel-transport, and Australia being an island and far away from anywhere means that all its international outgoing and inbound tourism travel is affected. Australia had also been investing a lot in the Chinese tourism market, which means that by China being one of the major countries being affected, heavily depending on the Chinese tourism market for international traveling has put Australia into a competitive disadvantage in relation to competitors. Australia as many other countries need to build resilience to crisis by diversifying to multiple tourism source markets and by diversifying its tourism product and experiences to appeal to various and different tourism target markets,” explains Professor Sigalas.
Though the Federal government upgraded its travel advice to level 4 for the entire globe, he did give a light of hope by stating domestic air travel is “low risk” based on advice from Australia’s chief medical officer, Dr Brendan Murphy.
“This is why Australia needs to invest and focus more on domestic and short haul travel which is less risky for travellers,” explains Professor Sigalas.
In Greece, the tourism sector is negatively impacted by the pandemic. Though the Chinese market is a major source of tourism, Greece is lucky because it has a more diversified international tourism market than Australia. The arrival of spring weather in the northern hemisphere, will most likely work in its favour.
“The next few months will demonstrate the role and importance of tourism to people’s financial, social, psychological well-being and wellness. It will demonstrate the social and cultural role of tourism for building, maintaining international relations and links, and international business collaborations. It will demonstrate how important it is for tourism development and sustainability to build collaborations and work with others for common good,” says Sigalas.
Nobody knows how long the Covid-19 epidemic will last. Pandemics are not just passing tragedies of sickness and death.
The omnipresence of such mass-scale threats, and the uncertainty and fear that accompany them, lead to new behaviours and beliefs, with people becoming more suspicious and less willing to engage with anything that seems foreign or strange.
“This is exactly what we should avoid doing. During times of crisis, people and organisations should realise how important it is for everyone to collaborate and work together to fight a common ‘enemy’. The coronavirus such as any crisis cannot be fought by a single person, company, organisation alone.
“We are all in this together,” Professor Sigalas concludes.