Wei Xiaoan: Coronavirus outbreak and world tourism

Publish Time:2020-03-12 10:20:33

【Introduction】:This year marks the first cancellation in the entire history of ITB Berlin, manifesting the severity of the current coronavirus outbreak. World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) has also prepared to initiate a series of events during the exhibition, but in vain due to the cancellation.

Article / Wei Xiaoan, Chief Expert of WTCF

Editor's note: on March 7, the WTCF jointly hosted an online forum for the public welfare of the cultural tourism industry with the theme of "the epidemic will be over, the spring is coming and making sail for future". Industry experts from different fields gathered online to discuss the future of tourism after the epidemic. Wei Xiaoan, chief expert of WTCF, delivered a speech on the theme of "coronavirus outbreak and world tourism" at the forum.

The following contents are sorted out according to the speech record of Wei Xiaoan (the relevant data is updated to March 11) :

On February 28, Chairman of ITB Berlin declared the exhibition originally planned to open on March 4 was cancelled due to the concern of coronavirus outbreak. Founded in 1966, ITB Berlin, the exhibition crowned as the Olympics of world tourism, has welcomed over 10,000 participants from 180+ countries and regions, as well as 113,500 professional buyers and 160,000 visitors so far. This year marks the first cancellation in the entire history of ITB Berlin, manifesting the severity of the current coronavirus outbreak. World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) has also prepared to initiate a series of events during the exhibition, but in vain due to the cancellation.

I want to hereby discuss about the current coronavirus outbreak and how we could deal with it from three aspects:

1. Virus knows no bounds; but humans share a community with a common future

(1) Several stages of the coronavirus outbreak

The past three months witnessed the initial outbreak of coronavirus in China. The Chinese government has been joining efforts across the country to fight against the infection, and now the final victory is closer. As of March 11, China has had a total of 80793 confirmed cases, with 62793 cures yet 3169 deaths. The outbreak is still prevalent, and any deviation from joined efforts and caution is unacceptable. Work resumption has been carried out to facilitate economic recovery. In conclusion, the Chinese method is to give full play to the national strength and experience, with Chinese people working together to correct any mistakes or errors.

As of March 11, the coronavirus has affected 114 other countries, with 37449 confirmed cases, 1136 deaths. Among them, Korea suffers from 7755 confirmed cases, Italy 10283, Iran 8042. According to the estimation of the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus outbreak remains at an extremely high-risk level, which, on the other hand, proves the significance of “building a community with a shared future for mankind.”

The uncertainty of the outbreak is still intensifying, as suggested in the difference of development stages, levels of public health and service, and governance systems of countries. Against the backdrop of globalization, for Chinese people all over the world, how to protect themselves or return to China remains a tough issue. If the outbreak in China is the first stage, the global outbreak would be stage two, and cross infection stage three or even stage N. The whole world must join hands in fighting against the coronavirus. Though we may have differed attitudes, we share similar methods, and the result of the battle could yield a critical influence on everyone, every family and community.

(2) Impact on tourism

According to the research done by WTCF experts, the world enjoyed a total of 12.3 billion tourists (domestic and inbound tourism) and 5.8 trillion US dollars of revenue, and the natural growth rate in 2020 is estimated to be 4 percent. In the meantime, in accordance with National Bureau of Statistics of China, the number of domestic tourists in China in 2019 reached 6.01 billion – a year-on-year growth of 8.4 percent; domestic tourism revenue was 5.7 trillion yuan – a year-on-year growth of 11.7 percent. At the same time, the quantity of inbound tourists reached 0.145 billion, including 31.88 million foreign visitors, with international tourism revenue hitting 131.3 billion US dollars. The number of outbound tourists, on the other hand, was 0.16 billion, witnessing a year-on-year increase of 4.5 percent.

Both China’s economy and tourism rank the second globally. China, while dominant in the demand side already, has also become a superpower in tourism as the supply side gets improved. In general, China’s domestic tourism ranks the first globally, outbound tourism the second, and inbound tourism the fourth. However, the coronavirus outbreak forced China’s tourism in suspension, resulting in nearly zero revenue in Q1. The constant, fixed expenditure of travel enterprises further curbs tourism consumption in an all-round way, so that consumption during the Spring Festival, a rather fixed yearly peak, plumbed.

China’s slowdown also affected the world tourism. Southeast Asia, one of the favorite resorts of Chinese people, saw a total breakdown. Japan and Korea welcomed only a few visitors. Europe, also an important destination of Chinese visitors, experienced a slowdown too. Emerging tourism markets like South America were the only ones that escaped the slowdown which affected not only the number of tourists, but also multiple industries including airline business, catering and shopping. As the coronavirus outbreak goes global, the impact on tourism gets even more complicated. Would Chinese people be confident enough to go abroad again after the outbreak?

Therefore, the influence of the coronavirus outbreak on world tourism is expected to be comprehensive and long-term. It is estimated that global tourism would probably experience a slowdown with regional fluctuation. Things in East Asia and Southeast Asia would definitely be even worse. The worst is yet to come because the outbreak in Iran has not spread to the Middle East and even to Africa (which is still possible). The survival of global tourism may depend on the variation of the global outbreak. What we could anticipate right now is only increasingly intensified uncertainty.

2. We must deepen our knowledge to find new patterns

(1) Risks become common

In the 40-year-history of China’s tourism, we have experienced ten impacts – four international, four domestic, and the remaining two both international and domestic.

From a global perspective, impacts and crises are rather common. First, the world has yet to get rid of terrorism which was most demonstrated in the 9/11 attacks. Second, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and mountain fire in Australia, happen more and more regularly. Last, the world suffers from regular financial crises, especially the financial tsunamis in 1998 and 2008.

On the other hand, we may suffer from enterprise operation slowdown, traffic accidents, structural adjustment, financial shock and terrorism. Chinese people travel around the entire world, so every influencing factor may affect us.

Hence, we must learn to establish a crisis response mechanism for crisis management and strategies, and study when to the turn the table under the crisis. First, we need to set up more insurance types. Second, we ought to integrate resources and establish a nationwide emergency treatment system, and a long-term anti-outbreak mechanism. Last, we should keep high alert and set up all sorts of strategies and mechanism to tackle regular crises.

(2) Variation in elements

Tourism elements can be divided into three types. The first are operational elements – traffic, travel, accommodation, catering, shopping and entertainment. The key of such six elements lies in enterprise, and has now become relatively mature across the globe, resulting in the homogenization of operation. The second are six environmental elements, involving travel security, financial security, physical and mental health, social friendliness and public service, the key of which lie in governments and public products. The third are still six developmental elements – investment, management, talent, information, land and market, covering all sorts of enterprises and promoting the improvement of other elements.

The above three types of elements are constantly changing in terms of weight and structure in various stages of tourism development. In the initial stage, operational elements are the first to consider. But currently, the significance of environmental elements is gradually standing out, meaning that governments play a more and more critical role. When the society suffers from an outbreak, environmental elements rise to the top one as the foundation of long-term competition. Under such circumstance, we could create new Chinese pattern in the tourism sector with our profound Chinese experience.

(3) Sensitivity and fragility

3. Waiting to bounce back

First of all, people around the world start to panic over coronavirus, but we hope things are different. China has gone through such stage safely and will almost win the battle against the novel coronavirus epidemic, waiting to see the post-coronavirus recovery. Though it is still an early stage for world tourism, international tourism organizations have started to give voice to encourage precaution against the outbreak. Second, the world tourism has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. As for the demand side, the long-tern demands would decline as government budget and individual income are concentrated on helping stop the outbreak. In terms of supply, individual unemployment and corporate bankruptcy would be exacerbated by the growing global outbreak. Third, post-coronavirus bounce-back recovery may be a long process – inner-province to trans-province; surrounding areas to remote areas; East to West; China to the globe; business to tourism; and individual tourism to group tourism. There may be a short-term explosive growth in tourism, which may be, after all, our wishful thinking.

Fourth, companies should stick to four new basic principles – security, health, quality, and innovation. All these principles can only work at the expense of cost. I don’t agree that companies can provide low-cost high-quality service, because it violates the rules of running companies.

Last but not least, now it’s a test of endurance. How to survive coronavirus outbreak is the most important before profit and sustainable development. Luckily, victory against the novel coronavirus epidemic is finally in sight and we are expected to go through the difficulties in the spirit of endurance and with appropriate methods.

Concentrating on protecting the lifeblood of business

We should concentrate in line with national prospect, economic foundation and actual enterprise conditions. For that, we must protect the lifeblood of business. First, due to lack of cash flow, we should reduce expenditure to avoid the breakdown of capital chain. Second, the most valuable experience learned from the wars is that key members of a company should be united as one. Third, clients are critical to tourism companies, so we must retain current customers. Fourth, we need to sort out and consolidate resources. Both airlines and tourist destinations serve as competitive edges for corporate development. Fifth, we ought to strengthen cooperation between upper- and lower-stream business as well as between regions. Sixth, we must strive to achieve intelligent development by means of new technologies.

Wish the world victory against coronavirus;

Wish all people good health;

Wish tourism survive and thrive.


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