During the past period, I have been observing the rapid changes in our tourism industry, trends, supply, demand, challenges, closers and all what accompanied this era we live in.

As per the UNWTO, International tourist arrivals dropped 93% in June when compared to 2019, with the latest data from the World Tourism Organization showing the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the sector. According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65% during the first half of the year.

Over recent weeks, a growing number of destinations have started to open up again to international tourists. UNWTO reports that, as of September, 53% of destinations had eased travel restrictions. Nevertheless, many governments remain cautious. If I take my country, Jordan as an example, we recently opened the airport for regular flights based on classifying the severity of the pandemic in countries (Green, Yellow and Red) eligible to travel to and from Jordan reviewed every 14 days. All travellers must undergo a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to departure and all arrivals in Jordan will be tested at the airport.

Countries classified as “Red” include Bahrain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Romania, Israel, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and the US.

The “Yellow” list includes Malta, Morocco, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK, Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Green countries” are Algeria, Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkey.

People who arrive from countries that are classified as green and their PCR test comes negative, they will not be sent to quarantine.

People who arrive from countries classified as red and yellow with a negative PCR test will be sent to home quarantine for a period of seven days after being tested again upon arrival. Those arriving from red countries will be monitored through an electronic bracelet during the home stay.

A laboratory has been assigned at the Queen Alia International Airport to conduct PCR tests on arrivals. After the arrivals leave the plane, they are sent by bus to the emergency area to take the PCR test, and people who show any COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated and tested in separately.

Travel has become complicated and the ever changing situation in countries with regards to the pandemic is confusing bot for travellers and tourism bodies (Tour Operators, Hotels, etc…).

Despite the gradual reopening of many destinations since the second half of May, the anticipated improvement in international tourism numbers during the peak summer season in the Northern Hemisphere did not materialize. Europe was the second-hardest hit of all global regions, with a 66% decline in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2020. The Americas (-55%), Africa and the Middle East (both -57%) also suffered.

However, Asia and the Pacific, the first region to feel the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, was the hardest hit, with a 72% fall in tourists for the six-month period.

If we look at Turkey, one of the world’s most demanded destination we can see the amount of harm COVID-19 did to the industry.

A drop of -91% from Russia, -77% from Germany and -86% from the UK. So imagine the amount of empty hotel rooms, restaurants, and the lack of work through-out the entire supply chain and the negative effect on the economy and labour. And this apply to the vast majority of countries worldwide if not all.

Looking ahead, it seems likely that reduced travel demand and consumer confidence will continue to impact results for the rest of the year. In May, UNWTO outlined three possible scenarios, pointing to declines of 58% to 78% in international tourist arrivals in 2020. Current trends through August point to a drop in demand closer to 70% (Scenario 2), especially now as some destinations re-introduce restrictions on travel.

The extension of the scenarios to 2021 point to a change in trend next year, based on the assumptions of a gradual and linear lifting of travel restrictions, the availability of a vaccine or treatment and a return of traveller confidence. Nonetheless, despite this, the return to 2019 levels in terms of tourist arrivals would take between 2½ to 4 years. (UNWTO)

Even if a vaccine is there, and here I wish to be very frank, the first countries to have it are the rich countries and super powers leaving the less fortunate countries waiting in line, and until the world population is vaccinated and immunity start, the predicted dates to have a semi normal flow of tourism 2023/24 is realistic.

The longer this pandemic last, the longer the recovery will be. Fierce competition between worldwide destinations will happen. Airlines will be looking at destination which will have the demand and will consider others as secondary choices. Travel will become more expensive and less people will travel.

So what options does other destinations have? I believe that they should offer something new, out of the ordinary for people to see and to start promotion at the right time.

When is the right time? Well that depends on the target market, each has its own difficult pandemic situation, travel restrictions and regulations for its people to travel. The most important thing is to have something unique to offer that takes into consideration the needs of the travellers especially those safety measures since we will still be in the COVID-19 or post COVID-19 era and people will still want to have the sense of safety.

Another option will be charter flights wrapped up with this unique packages. Charters tend to be cheaper than flag carriers and will bring in volume to secure numbers to your destination. LCC will follow the supply and demand eventually.

During these days, I suggest that you start preparing and looking at the unique features your destination has. Also do invest even a little bit in the development of your staff in training them, boosting their morals and preparing them for the coming period.

We have to always be optimistic even in the darkest nights, knowing that the sun will bring its light tomorrow and a brighter day will arrive.

Meanwhile, start thinking, planning, taking care of one another while you are safe.