The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on travel and tourism around the world.
The tourism industry in South Africa has been one of those hit hardest by the pandemic and the resultant travel bans and lockdown restrictions.
While the downgrade to alert level 4 has allowed a number of businesses to resume operations, it’s going to be a long while before things will be up and running again in the travel and tourism sector.
There has also been a fair amount of backlash from various organisations over the way that funds have been allocated to keep the industry alive.
Moving on to CNN, which takes a broader view of the industry, and what we can expect once the virus is under control and people can explore the world again.
In the short term, we can expect “regional travel bubbles”.
Australia and New Zealand have committed to a travel corridor, which is not expected to come for a few months. In Europe, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced plans to open their internal borders for citizens of the three countries from May 15.
For most countries, staying isolated is not an option they can afford long-term, and experts think that it’s just a matter of time before other countries create travel bubbles of their own.
It’s predicted that countries will choose ‘travel partners’ with which they have strong geopolitical ties.
Countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, such as our own, will have to balance health and economic concerns.
It’s likely to be a long time before borders are reopened to allow travel from other nations, but some countries have already considered strategies for containing tourism once it becomes a possibility.
Thailand has considered opening select areas for foreign tourists. Visitors to the country are effectively confined to one place, such as an island.
As if obtaining a visa wasn’t already a soul-destroying process, boarding a flight or entering another country will become even more complicated.
Passengers may have their temperature checked at the airport or be tested for coronavirus before they board the plane. But there are issues to be worked out around that. Authorities will need to be comfortable that rapid tests are accurate and decide how long before a flight a passenger needs to be tested.
Then there are immunity passports which signify that a passenger is immune to the virus.
The immunity passports rely on the idea that people who have recovered from Covid-19 can’t be reinfected. But for now, there’s no evidence that they have antibodies that protect them from a second infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Even if they have developed immunity, it’s not clear how long that would last. Also, we don’t yet have widespread antibody testing, which would be necessary for this to work.
For more on whether people who have recovered can be reinfected, read this.
All of this is, at the end of the day, speculation.
That said, things will eventually go back to some version of ‘normal’, albeit a revised and reconsidered normal.
The travel and tourism industry will have to brace itself for a very different future.
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