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Tourism is the backbone of many countries, particularly developing countries around the world that rely heavily on the income derived from tourism. With the advent of COVID-19 tourism has been turned on its head. Numbers have dropped as countries close their borders or restrict access to international travelers. While the impact of the crisis is being felt throughout the whole tourism ecosystem, rural communities have suffered a trickle-down effect with the loss of tourist income and the loss of jobs in the agriculture and natural resource sector as international demand for goods has collapsed. Many of the rural communities are exploring tourism as a source of new employment and investment to replace natural resource-based jobs. This tough requires a determination of the changes that may need to be made to the community infrastructure and central/local government policy to make the environment supportive of new business ventures. Some countries are turning to domestic tourism to plug the gap, with tourism businesses and workers benefiting from economy-wide stimulus packages, with many tourism specific measures in the remote and rural communities, where visitors may feel safer. For example, in New Zealand while a survey of tourism numbers by the Department of Conservation prior to COVID-19 showed 1.75 million international tourists, or 52 per cent of all visitors to New Zealand travelled to a national park in the year ending March 2018, the same period showed an estimated 3.9 million, or 80 per cent of New Zealanders visit public conservation land and water at least once a year.

The tourism economy has been heavily hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and measures introduced to contain its spread. Depending on the duration of the crisis, revised scenarios indicate that the potential shock could range between a 60-80% decline in the international tourism economy in 2020. (OECD)

  • 60% decline in international tourism in 2020.
  • Could rise to 80% if recovery is delayed until December 2020.
  • International tourism within specific geographic-regions (e.g. in the European Union) is expected to rebound first.
  • Starting up again and reopening will require a holistic and managed approach.
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