It’s a turnaround, in Mexico, Dubai, Tanzania. Largely dependent on tourism, these destinations had, despite the Covid-19, left the borders open to welcome their international customers. Now they are disillusioned. The number of cases of infection has exploded there in recent weeks, to the point that health restrictions have been imposed. A nasty blow to their economy.
Globally, global tourism recorded the worst results in its history in 2020, with international arrivals falling by 74%, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Globally, the number of arrivals is down by one billion from 2019, following travel restrictions. By way of comparison, the global economic crisis of 2009 resulted in a drop of 4%. Revenue losses amount to $ 1.3 trillion, eleven times the loss recorded during the 2009 crisis. Now the pandemic threatens 100 to 120 million direct jobs.
■ Dubai, its five stars, its bars, its beaches
In Dubai, tourism, which accounts for up to 5% of gross domestic product (GDP), is one of the engines of the economy, not to mention the share of Emirates, the national airline, which connects the emirate to the world. With discounts and other promotions, the country had established itself as a safe and prestigious destination, with its five-stars, bars, beaches and large shopping centers.
There were no check-in tests and hotels were 71% full in November. Since the beginning of the year, the party is over. The number of cases rose from 1,506 on December 29 to 2,250 last Sunday. According to the daily Gulf Times From Monday, the hotel occupancy rate will not exceed 70% throughout the month of February. Bars and pubs are also closed until the end of the month.
■ Mexico, from dream to nightmare
While Dubai, where GDP per capita is $ 37,750 (in 2019), has contained the damage, other destinations are paying a much higher price. This is the case of Mexico, where tourism represents 13.2% of the GDP and the per capita income amounts to 8,900 dollars per year. For Americans and Canadians, but also for Europeans wanting to escape covid restrictions, Cancun, Tulum and other resorts were dream destinations. No tests and no quarantine on arrival: the authorities had openly played the card of the economy.
The landscape has now changed. Mexico is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. The number of new infections on Sunday stood at 3,100, after peaking at 10,800 on January 27. Hotel occupancy rates fell to 50% in December, compared to 70% in normal times.
For Reza Etemad-Sajadi, associate professor at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, countries where tourism makes a major contribution to the economy in terms of currency and employment have found themselves faced with the difficult choice of stopping the virus or to secure the economy. “Each country follows its logic, but the prevalence of a rather young population called for more openness,” he notes. Above all, not all countries have the financial capacity to help the sector as is the case in Europe. ”
■ Tanzania, where prayers drive out covid
The most emblematic case is that of Tanzania, including Zanzibar, its mythical island which attracts tourists at all times. Tourism accounts for 4.3% of GDP nationwide and 20% in Zanzibar. Other economic sectors, notably mining, slowed down in 2020 and the state decided to keep the borders open to tourists. Just last month, KLM operated a daily shuttle between Amsterdam and Zanzibar. And the Tanzanian state claimed that the prayers had chased the Covid-19.
The party is also over in Tanzania. Several senior officials have recently died, including the vice president of Zanzibar and the head of the civil service. On Sunday, it was the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who personally urged Tanzania to protect its people.