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Our View: Misplaced optimism in tourism needs a reality check

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March, tourism industry players, including minister Savvas Perdios, have been treating the pandemic as a temporary situation.

Perdios assured early on that according to his data things would look up by July and August and 600,000 visitors would come. When that didn’t materialise, September became the big hope. That turned out to be 83.4 per cent down on the previous year as we saw a few days ago.

On Tuesday there was an extraordinary meeting of the Cyprus Hotels Association with Perdios and Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, revealing that revenue from tourism was down 88.5 per cent this year.

The visitors and money have disappeared, but the optimism seems to be alive and well, as misplaced as it is. According to a press release after the event, the notion appears to still exist that this is a temporary crisis. It’s not, and not because coronavirus will eventually wear itself out and disappear for the most part as all pandemics of the past have done.

The World Economic Forum’s ‘Great Reset’ is due to be rolled out next year and tourism is one of the biggest sectors earmarked for global-altering changes, given the impact of air travel on the planet. But it seems we did not all get the memo.

The Great Reset is putting climate change and social issues at the heart of future policymaking and business decisions. According to the OECD, post-Covid economics, combined with the fourth industrial revolution (AI), must be fully aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals. In tourism, this will result in separating the wheat from the chaff, go green and move with the technology or die effectively.

Also, people have changed their habits. Eight months of the pandemic has bred in many a fear of travelling and crowded spaces. How many will just revert to the old paradigm of the mass market tourism experience, packed beaches and bars, drunken shenanigans, casual eating? How many will want to join the ‘new normal’ way of travelling, so-called health passports, tracing apps, testing, social distancing, temperature checks, masks, zero fun.

You might hear that the Covid vaccine will solve everything and things will go back to normal then. Well, according to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom recently the vaccine will be a “vital tool” but it won’t end pandemic on its own and there’s no guarantee scientists will find one. He said the public must learn to manage the virus and make “permanent adjustments” to their daily lives.

“In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers. We will not, we cannot go back to the way things were,” he said.

The tourism industry needs to take heed and look to a different future entirely.


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