Ms. Esencan Terzibasoglu Special Adviser to the Secretary General of World Tourism Cities Federation:Work Together to Tackle the Outbreak of COVID-19 and to Embrace the Bright Future of World Tourism after the Epidemic

Publish Time:2020-03-09 17:29:40

【Introduction】:Currently, COVID-19 is spreading around the world, and has turned out to be another public health emergency following SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015. Confronted with the greater influence of COVID-19 on Chinese and even global tourism industry, the tourist circle all over the world shall attach great significance to tackling the epidemic.

Editor's note: the 54th ITB Berlin originally scheduled to be held in Berlin, Germany, on Mar. 4-6 , was canceled due to the global spread of the COVID-19. This year, as originally planned, will be the fifth year in a row that WTCF as the exclusive co-organizer of the ITB, and two thematic forums will be held during the event cancelled by the ITB.  Ms. Esencan, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of WTCF and  Director of Destination Management and Quality Programme, UNWTO, was scheduled to deliver a speech at the opening ceremony of the conference.

The following is a transcript of Esencan's speech (updated to March 9) :

The 54th ITB Berlin was originally scheduled to be held in Berlin, Germany, on Mar. 4-6. On Feb. 28, the organizers of ITB Berlin announced that this year's fair would be cancelled because of the spread of COVID-19.

This article was the keynote speech of the WTCF panel discussion "Impact of COVID-19 outbreak on global tourism and recovery measures".

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Currently, COVID-19 is spreading around the world, and has turned out to be another public health emergency following SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015. Confronted with the greater influence of COVID-19 on Chinese and even global tourism industry, the tourist circle all over the world shall attach great significance to tackling the epidemic. In the forum specially set by the Summit to discuss the “Influence of COVID-19 on World Tourist”, I’d like to represent WTCF to share my opinions on epidemic prevention and control in China and worldwide for reference.

I. On the COVID-19

Currently, the COVID-19 has been rapidly spread in all cities of China as well as more than 40 countries and regions in Asia Pacific, Europe and the America. By Mar. 9, 2020, more than  80904 cases of COVID-19 pneumonia were confirmed in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, while confirmed cases were found in more than 101 foreign countries worldwide.

On Jan. 23, 2020, Wuhan was locked down. On Jan. 24, all the group tours nationwide were suspended as required by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. On Jan. 30, COVID-19 fell into the “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” of WHO.

Currently, we have come to a crucial stage in terms of epidemic prevention and control. Proceeding from the development of the epidemic in China, both newly confirmed cases and suspected cases are on the decline, and the number of cured and discharged cases has witnessed rapider growth. It was because of China’s phased results of epidemic prevention and control that global preparedness in effectively containing cross-border spread of the epidemic has been allowed time for.

From the view of cross-border spread of the epidemic, the risk of massively spreading the virus still exists as a result of the increasing number of foreign countries reporting cases of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus despite the decline of confirmed cases in China. It is highlighted by experts from WHO that the measures taken by China for epidemic prevention and control have been proven to be the most successful ones at present. Therefore, WHO calls on the international community to seize China’s window of opportunity to prevent and control epidemic, and to make sufficient preparations for the cross-border spread of the epidemic.

II. On Prevention and Control of COVID-19

In order to tackle the epidemic, China has rapidly established the joint prevention and control mechanism nationwide, and taken a series of fast, resolute and thorough disposal measures represented by quarantine, treatment and prevention. For instance, Wuhan, a city with population more than 10 million, was locked down, where two large hospitals affording more than 1,000 beds were built up with less than two (2) weeks; 32,572 medical workers of 225 medical teams were dispatched from other cities to Wuhan, which curbed the momentum of epidemic spread from the source. It was due to the method with government at all levels and whole society involved adopted by the Chinese authority that the number of confirmed cases managed to decrease by from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, which other countries may use as reference while preventing and controlling the epidemic.

Furthermore, diversified supportive measures have been launched in different cities of China, such as tax reduction and exemption, rent reduction, free refund and flight change, with a view to backing up epidemic prevention and control, and boosting the economic development. And the international community has given a helping hand. So far, more than 130 countries and regions have provided support and assistance to help China fight against the epidemic through various means.

As the globally first international organization focusing on cities, World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) sets its headquarters in Beijing, and now enjoys 218 members distributed in 73 countries and regions worldwide, including 145 city members and 73 institutional members. As the decisive measures taken by the Chinese government to deal with the epidemic are fully recognized, supported and commended by WTCF, upon outbreak of the epidemic, the Secretariat of WTCF has timely notified its members of global information on epidemic prevention and control, directed its members to actively coordinate with the epidemic prevention and control work of Chinese government, and spared no efforts to participate in the battle against the epidemic. In this context, our members have taken initiative to shoulder social responsibilities. The fund for major disasters equivalent to RMB200.00 million was initiated by Ctrip to cover the expenses arising from users’ change or cancellation of orders; CITS donated RMB10.00 million for the epidemic prevention and control in Hubei Province; Tuniu and other online tourism platforms jointly assisted in the epidemic prevention and control by donating money and supplies and helping merchants.

III. On the Influence of COVID-19 on World Tourism

The COVID-19 inevitably exerts enormous influence on Chinese tourism. Based on the analytical study of China Tourism Academy, if the inflection point arises by the end of Mar. or in the midmonth of Apr., the simulating calculation and professional assessment shows that, the number of domestic tourists in China will take on the negative growth of 56% in the first quarter of 2020 and 15% throughout the year; the number of domestic tourists will decrease by 932 million and the tourism income decreasing by RMB1.18 trillion in this year; the number of tourists from foreign countries will decrease by 50.32 million and that of tourists to foreign countries decreasing by 27.63 million all through the year.

With respect to the world tourism, the COVID-19 also has a major impact. According to the survey of SNAI Accounting Information Investigation Center, accommodation and catering industry is exposed to the greatest influence amid the Coronavirus outbreak, and 70% of catering enterprises have suffered losses. Besides, there will inevitably be spillover effects on such industries as entertainment, transportation, wholesale and retail. It’s analyzed by ICAO that, upon outbreak of the epidemic, the number of flight reservation during the Chinese New Year has declined sharply. From Feb. to Mar. 2020, the passenger volume will decrease by 16.40 million, resulting in the potential income loss up to USD4.10 billion.

By comparison, the influence of the COVID-19 on the tourism in Asia Pacific is more profound. Around the Chinese New Year, the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand, Japan, America, France and Australia decreases by more than 60%, resulting in the potential economic loss up to USD24.00 billion. The tourism industry in Europe and America is also affected. Subject to the estimation of ETOA, about 170,000 Chinese tourists have cancelled their orders, and the economic losses arising therefrom exceed EUR340.00 million. As predicted by Tourism Economics, in 2020, the number of Chinese tourists to America will decrease by 28%, and the air charges and domestic consumption to be decreased as anticipated by The Wall Street Journal amounts to USD5.80 billion.

Tourism is a comprehensive industry with relatively stronger roughness. Although the epidemic this time brings huge and transient shock to the world tourism, on a global scale, the basic motivation, market demands and service system of world tourism still exist, and it’s impossible for the COVID-19 to change the positive long-term trend of the global tourism industry. In combination with the prevention and control experience of SARS in 2003, a lot of people had their travel plan delayed or put aside on the spread of epidemic, while the market demand never disappeared. After SARS was globally controlled in Jul. of that year, the tourism industry embraced the full recovery soon. Now the precise resumption of work and production has been advanced in different regions of China based on their local health risks.

It may be judged that, with the implementation of accurate measures worldwide, the epidemic will be controlled within a short time, and the international society has full confidence in the recovery of Chinese tourism industry. In the statement issued by UNWTO, it’s stressed that, in recent years, China has grown to be the leader of the global tourism industry, and the tourism industry will help China to resuscitate from such setback. According to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, the most possible model of the influence (on economy) is of V shape, which means that the economic activities will encounter rapid and effective rebound upon obvious decline.

IV. On Principal Measures for the Rapid Rebound and Recovery of World Tourism after the Epidemic

As the fight against the epidemic in China enters a crucial stage, subject to the judgment of relevant experts, China is confident in fundamentally controlling the epidemic prior to the end of Apr. With reference to the prevention and control experience of SARS in 2003, the tourism market will experience the psychological buffer period after the epidemic, and then the world tourism will see the retaliatory rebound. WTCF will work with all other tourism organizations worldwide to set the scene for the full recovery of world tourism after the epidemic, accommodate to the influence of the epidemic on people’s consumption psychology, and make every endeavor to shorten the market cycle of wait-and-see and fluctuation.

Currently, UNWTO and WHO have carried out close consultation to minimize the influence of epidemic prevention and control measures on transportation and trade, and ensure the travel activities’ compliance with the general guidance and suggestions of WHO.

Subsequently, WTCF will play the coordination function between tourism cities and travel agencies. Subject to the uniform requirements of WHO, WTCF is expected to fully consider epidemic prevention and control and tourism development, timely notify the global information on epidemic prevention and control, and launch the revitalization plan for the global tourism industry in good time, thus making sound preparations for the recovery of world tourism’s normal order.

While playing the multilateral cooperation function of an international organization, WTCF calls on the governments and tourism cities of different countries to adopt more active fiscal policies and precise financial services, grant more assistance to the tourism industry and other related industries exposed to serious influence of the epidemic, and help tourism enterprises to tide over difficulty. Moreover, the governments and tourism cities of different countries are encouraged to take more open and inclusive measures for entry and exit control, to establish mutually convenient partnership, to respect diversified contractual reservation, to share losses jointly, to reinforce tourist propaganda, and to initiate the active and healthy consumption model, through which conditions for the rapid rebound of world tourism may be created.

On the strength of the integration function of institutional members, WTCF will organize visiting groups of international tourism to conduct field visit in major tourism destinations worldwide, and further enlarge the pairing dynamics of tourism products after the epidemic is fundamentally controlled. In order to revive the confidence in world tourism industry, WTCF will also provide members with the professional guidance on rapidly recovering development after the epidemic.

Distinguished guests and friends, the COVID-19 is a challenge for all human beings. We will work with all parties to win the fight against the epidemic and jointly create the booming and bright future of world tourism.






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