Border closure/Omicron variant: the tourism industry holds its breath

Closure of borders/Omicron variant: the tourism industry holds its breath

MISE & Agrave; DAY

After two years of acute crisis, the tourism industry is holding its breath in the face of a new wave of COVID-19 and the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant on all continents which is pushing many countries to restrict travel, threatening its recovery. & nbsp;

While the sector will lose $ 2 trillion this year – as much as in 2020 – due to restrictions linked to the pandemic, according to the Organization World Tourism Organization (OMT), the spread of Omicron makes the situation “totally unpredictable” and could once again cause “enormous damage”, believes its Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili.

  • Listen to the interview of WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic with Benoit Dutrizac on QUB Radio:

“As long as the United States decides to close its borders, and they are capable of doing so, that one country after another barricades itself – which does not change anything – we are off again for a great crisis”, considers Didier Arino, president of the specialist firm Protourism, to AFP.

Judging that there was “no reason to panic” in the face of the spread of the Omicron variant, US President Joe Biden said on Monday that he “does not anticipate at this point” further restrictions on international travel.

“As long as we have intra-European tourism and the transatlantic flights work, the impact is quite limited. If we have a border closure, with a resumption of the pandemic, when the Asian markets were already closed, it will be complicated, ”worries Mr. Arino.

According to the UNWTO, 46 countries remain totally closed to tourists, or one in five destinations, and 55 partially. Many Asian and Pacific states still ban “non-essential” travel.

Classified “worrying” by the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron worries: Japan and Israel have closed their borders to foreign travelers. Other countries such as France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada or the Philippines refuse travelers from southern Africa.

“In September, October and early November, the recovery activity has been very strong. But the fifth European wave marked a downward plateau in reservations. In recent days, it has been a brutal fall, “Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Travel Companies, told AFP.

“As of Thursday evening, reservations, which had returned to the 2019 level, fell by 30%. The psychology of customers has changed, ”says Jean-François Rial, CEO of Voyageurs du Monde.

“ Hyper responsiveness ”of States

“This hyper reactivity of the States causes a reluctance of the travelers” but the cancellations are made “only on the destinations concerned” by the border closures, causing the activity of travel agencies to fall to “20% or 25% of a week normal at this time, ”says Mr. Mas. “We are particularly worried,” he underlines.

Professionals hope for a coordinated policy at European level, which would make it possible to avoid anarchic border closures.

For the At the moment, the end-of-year holidays are still preserved, with “a very strong demand for sun destinations: the Dominican Republic, Mauritius or the Mediterranean islands …”, says the president of Protourisme.

Those who plan to go to the French Antilles, faced with social movements, are waiting “to see the situation evolve: they know that they will be reimbursed in the event of cancellation,” says Mr. Arino.

“Overall, tourism has taken off, the hotel industry has left, as well as catering since the beginning of September. (…) COVID is a concern but I don't control it, so I won't spend too much time on it, ”said Sébastien Bazin, CEO of hotel giant Accor, which operates more than 5,000 establishments around the world , Monday morning on BFM Business.

“We will first take care of the men and women who work in the hotel and restaurant industry: they must be there for the Christmas holidays, for ski holidays, because the demand will be there, I guarantee it “, he affirmed.

In fact, the French tourist sector” is doing rather better “than 'others, through domestic attendance. “The more we depend on foreign and distant clienteles, the more we are affected” by the health crisis, underlines Mr. Arino.

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