Unfortunately 2020 hasn’t been the greatest year for most of us, but unlike myself and most people in the UK who are getting furlough payment from the government whilst not working and will come out of this just fine, some countries won’t have that same support.
As borders start to slowly open again and talk of travel for the second half of 2020 is on everyone’s lips, I thought I would do some research into which countries really need tourism more than most and how you could spend your money wisely to make sure you’re helping the locals as best you can.
Africa will feel the effects of this pandemic more than any other continent on the planet due to lack of wealth within governments to provide monetary assistance to its citizens. Whilst I think all countries in Africa will benefit greatly from a boost in tourism, the countries I highlight below are the ones that usually rely the most heavily on tourism and so who will benefit the most from visitors once it is deemed safe to travel there.
In 2018, 64.2% of this countries GDP came from the tourism industry so 2020 will see a dip in its economic growth. Recently, Seychelles announced a marine protection initiative to protect 30% of its oceans from commercial use. This is a great big step in the right direction for environmental change and I hope they see a boost in tourism when borders open again.
This island nation is full of white sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and year round sunshine! Cabo Verde have managed the pandemic well with only 502 cases and five deaths at time of writing. Some 44.4% of their national income is derived from tourism but there is no word on when tourism may return to the Cape. If borders opens towards the end of the year, it’s the perfect winter getaway for Europeans.
The Mauritius government were one of few African countries to offer financial assistance to workers who lost their jobs, although they were only awarded small portions of their usual income. The country rely heavily on the world market for imports for food, tourism and financial services. These services alone contributed about 75% of the countries GDP in 2019.
Ghana welcomed over 1 million foreign visitors last year due to a campaign called ‘Year of the Return’ which encouraged African descendants to visit during the 400th year since the Atlantic slave trade began. While the Black Lives Matter movement is stronger than ever, this is a very important lesson in education for all of us. Visiting the African nations is a great way of showing support and to encourage more learning about some of the longest living cultures in the world.
Asia is another continent that will feel the effects of COVID-19 all over for a long time to come. As with Africa, all countries will benefit from tourism but these are the ones who may suffer the most.
Tourism makes up a crazy 22% of Thailand’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and is the world’s most visited third world country. In 2018, Thailand made $63 billion USD, the fourth highest number of tourism dollars made that year in the world, so losing out on most of those tourism dollars this year will be a massive loss for an already poor nation. Thailand have managed the virus well with only 3,100 cases and 58 deaths at time of writing this so tourism may hopefully be an option soon. Thai people are often named some of the friendliest in the world, and I don’t doubt they will welcome you with open arms in the land of smiles as soon as deemed safe.
The Maldives are not having a great time. Not only do the rising sea levels thanks to climate change threaten to drown the country, but thanks to COVID-19, 75.1% of its GDP is at risk. In 2019, the country brought in 1.7 million tourists and had an ambition for 2 million visitors in 2020. Most tourism workers have been excused from work without pay, so it is extremely important to get resorts and the tourism industry back up and running as soon as possible. There are even talks the resorts will be slashing usual high prices to encourage visitors!
Tourism makes up 31.6% of Cambodia’s GDP so the effects of border closures here will be a tough sting. Cambodia were one of the last countries to close their borders because of this reason when the outbreak first started so they may also be one of the first ones to re-open. There have been no recorded deaths due to COVID-19 in Cambodia. Watch this space.
Tourism accounts for roughly 10% of national income in India and recent reports state that the tourism sector will lose an estimated $133 billion USD due to the pandemic.
Tourism in Bali is the main source of income there (roughly 80%) and the population of 4 million are struggling to get by without tourism. There is a fundraising effort to provide food to local families, if you love Bali and won’t be able to visit, you can donate here: Crisis Kitchen.
It’s looking likely that inter-continental travel may be off the cards for most of us for the majority of the year, but due to Europe’s close relationships, open border policies and official confirmation that some countries will be opening in June or July, here are some European options for those looking for a close getaway.
Spain are opening to foreign visitors in July and whilst they have seen some of the highest number of cases worldwide, daily numbers are now very much on the decline. Being one of the poorer EU nations who relies heavily on tourism (12-15% of annual GDP), they are hoping to encourage visitors for the later half of European summer.
Italy is the first European country to open its borders to European travellers and remove the mandatory 14 day quarantine. The country rely on tourism for over 13% of national GDP and whilst infection rates have fallen, please check with your countries immigration policy when it comes to traveling to Italy.
The usual crowds of summer in the thriving greek islands have now been replaced with ghost towns and the already struggling Greek economy is desperate for tourism to return. Tourism makes up a fifth of the countries economy so this loss threatens to push Greece back into the economic crisis they had a decade ago. They have recorded very low numbers of COVID-19 cases and are opening mainland airports of Athens and Thessaloniki on June 15 and the islands from July 1 to tourists from 29 countries.
Turkey have been recovering their tourism industry in the last few years with tourism numbers higher than ever in 2019. At the start of 2020, a 17% rise in economic growth in the tourism sector alone was predicted but thanks to coronavirus, this will no longer be the reality.
Some 27% of Malta’s GDP comes from tourism so this island nation will feel the effects of COVID-19 for longer than most. They have opened their borders to some European residents as of July 1.
A massive 35% of Icelands GDP is derived from tourism. The country fared fairly well with the coronavirus outbreak as the country saw only 1,802 cases, 10 deaths and currently only 2 cases are still active. As of June 15, Iceland is reopening it’s borders without a 14 day quarantine period. Tourists and residents will be screened upon arrival at Keflavik Airport and be asked to download a contract tracing app.
Some 41.8% of Belize’s GDP relies on tourism with the islands of Caye Caulker, San Pedro and the surrounding reef/atolls as well as Cocksomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Park being the countries main attractions. Locals on Caye Caulker had to turn vapour in the air into drinking water last month due to delayed shipments of bottled water to the island so they will be very happy to see tourism and regular boats arriving once again.
This virus may have been named after a Mexican beer, but that doesn’t mean they have been sheltered from the effects of it. Tourism accounts for over 16% of Mexico’s economy and without it there have been a lot of job losses and concerns within the community. A lot of Mexicans live day to day and many still need to work every day to survive which means lockdown hasn’t been possible to the same extent it has been elsewhere. The death toll is currently still growing whilst many countries see numbers decline which means a longer battle is ahead for Mexico. When this is all over they will really need some tourism support. How about an ice cold Corona to celebrate it’s defeat?
All of the poor nations in the Caribbean will be hit pretty hard with this global economic crisis due to their reliance on tourism.
The hardest hit nation by lack of tourism will be the British Virgin Islands as in 2018 it raked in a whopping 92% of their GDP annually!
Others very heavily hit will be (2018 percentage of GDP from tourism):
– Aruba (85.6%)
– Antigua & Barbuda (52.4%)
– The Bahamas (48.3%)
– St Lucia (43.4%)
– Barbados (41.2%)
– Jamaica (33.7%)
– Cayman Islands (30.2%)
In August/September 2019, The Bahamas inflicted losses of $3.4 billion due to Hurricane Dorian and it didn’t have much time to recover before COVID-19 came along.
With the highest number of deaths worldwide, the US have had a horrible time with coronavirus. The US is the wealthiest country in the world and so it should bounce back from this better than the rest of us, so why have I included it on the list? Well, it seems unlikely that the US will allow international travel for a while so this is a great chance for Americans to travel interstate and hopefully this information helps to see where their tourism dollars are most needed.
According to The Stacker the ten most affected states are:
- New Hampshire
- Washington D.C.
- New York
Another continent that will see some lasting, damaging effects in relation to loss in tourism. All countries here will benefit greatly from tourism but due to less flight options, opportunities for travel may become available later than most other continents.
Brazil and Argentina are the only South American countries included in the 20 biggest economies in the world. In Brazil, they have seen a late spike in cases which will force longer border closures and travel restrictions. Tourism accounts for 7.9% of it’s GDP.
Peru has been the second worst hit country in the continent with the virus and the hardest hit from lack of tourism. Tourism makes up around 10% of the countries GDP and with sights like Machu Picchu closed until further notice, the country is set to lose around $4 billion USD.
Australia & New Zealand
Having closed borders indefinitely, Australians and New Zealanders may not be allowed to travel internationally for a while yet, but their governments have been encouraging locals to travel domestically. NZ have now declared themselves corona-free after the last active case recovered recently and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been pushing for a four day working week to encourage local travel to boost the economy. There have also been talks of first opening up borders between the two neighbour nations but this is yet to be confirmed. A great chance to explore a little closer to home!
Vanuatu rely on tourism for 45.9% of their annual GDP and without tourism, there has been a 70% drop in full-time employment. No cases on the island nation have been recorded but the poor nation are wary to open borders due to a lack of facilities if an outbreak were to occur. To make matters worse, Vanuatu were recently struck by one of the strongest recorded tropical storms in the Southeast Pacific which killed three and left over 200,000 of its 300,000 inhabitants displaced. The damage could cost 2/3 of Vanuatu’s GDP and with a significant loss from tourism, they are going to need all the help they can get when borders re-open.
This island nation rely on tourism for around 40% of its GDP and empty resorts across the nation are creating local panic. Fiji were also affected by the category five Tropical Cyclone Harold in early April and with no foreign aid help due to the worldwide lockdowns. Fiji have only recorded 18 coronavirus cases and no deaths.
The Solomon Islands and Tonga were also affected by the cyclone.
How to make sure you give back directly to the local economy in the best way possible:
Stay with locally owned hotels, guesthouses etc.
This may be obvious, but can get overlooked when people are wanting luxury and have a few names that already spring into mind. Research some local gems instead!
Book directly with hotels/hostels
It’s all well and good to compare hotels on booking.com or hostels via HostelWorld, but when it comes time to book, find their website and book direct. Online search agents will take a cut of the profits and you’ll most likely find it is cheaper to book direct as well. If not, send them an email and ask if they can match the price, they will always say yes and may even throw in a bonus for booking with them!
Eat at local restaurants
Please don’t go to McDonalds when you’re overseas… please.
Take local transport (public or private)
Take the bus, pay for a taxi or a tuk tuk and support local drivers. Booking a transfer from the airport could be locally owned or it may be part of a bigger company who underpay drivers so it is sometimes better to pay for a taxi on arrival for the same price. Also, if hiring a car, avoid the big international corporations and see if there are any locally owned renters.
Book day trips when you arrive and listen to local advice
Some local tour companies don’t have the knowledge to put together websites and promote themselves online and a lot of companies that do have this knowledge may be bigger corporations who pay their staff (the locals that actually run the tours) poorly. Wait until you arrive and ask around to find some more locally run trips where you can pay your guide directly. A lot of the time it will be cheaper, plus you can ask locals for recommendations and some of the best hidden gems are found this way.
Buy locally made souvenirs from local artists
Head to a local market and find some unique crafts!
Avoid travel packages
Travel packages sound appealing to start, but the majority of the time, the sellers take marginal profits and leave locals with the leftover pennies. They have deals with certain operators that undercut their business and use mostly western or internationally owned businesses.
Stay with a local family
Home stays are becoming more and more popular and it’s one of the best ways to learn about a local culture.
Be environmentally conscious
We’ve seen the damages of tourism in countries like Thailand and the Philippines when Maya Bay and Boracay were closed to tourism due to ecological damage and this is a horrible way for locals to lose an income. Here are some tips to making sure we protect these natural environments:
- research the tour company and question their codes of conduct when in natural environments.
- eat less meat! also a great way to avoid food poisoning.
- wear reef-safe sunscreen.
- reduce your plastic use where possible.
- always take rubbish home with you.
- avoid purchases that exploit marine life or animals (don’t buy products made from animal bones, coral jewellery, shark teeth, leather products etc.)
Choose the right tour company
If you are wanting to travel solo or just love the idea of having a planned, co-ordinated trip then make sure to choose a travel company that puts money back into local economies. After being a travel agent for four years, I have seem all types of tour companies that don’t do this well enough but the best one for supporting local has to be G Adventures. They are one of the biggest tour companies in the world with tours running almost everywhere. They also fund important Planeterra projects to give jobs and livelihoods to the local communities they visit. They will also never stay in a big chain hotel or western owned accommodation, always sourcing locally owned hotels/hostels and including unique experiences by allowing guests to stay with local families during home stays. They will also give as much as possible back by hiring local guides and using 100% locally owned companies. You can measure the amount of funds given directly to the local community on each trip via their ‘ripple score’ which will be shown in every tour description. Most tours have a ripple score of (or close to) 100 meaning 100% of the money goes directly to locals. Amazing work!