Tourism, aviation and hospitality industries, including hotels and restaurants, were dealt a severe blow by the coronavirus pandemic. Heavy losses have led to major employee layoffs with some companies rolling out new services for a fresh cash grab.
British Airways, for example, went on to sell off first-class items, while EasyJet has imposed new charges on overhead lockers on its flights.
Despite the pandemic hitting tourism and aviation hard on a global scale, this is not the first time that these sectors have run into crisis. In the past, repercussions of the September 11 attacks and the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, volcanic events in Iceland, were regarded as unprecedented disruptions to global travel.
For three days, civilian flights were barred from flying in US airspace. The ash cloud from the volcanic eruptions in Iceland resulted in the cancellation of 95,000 flights over five days.
This goes to show that sectors connected to global travel are fragile and prone to disasters.
According to McKinsey and Company, aviation generates enormous value for the world, at 3.4% of global GDP. Its contributions to the world economy are made both directly and indirectly. Aviation makes business links happen, it fosters tourism, and it lets cultures mix.
In 2019, 4.6 billion passengers traveled by air with an average of 100,000 commercial flights being recorded daily, the international weekly “The Economist” reported.
Today, flights can travel longer distances, increasing the size of the aviation market. This progress has helped bring about prosperity. But when the pandemic spread, there was an unprecedented decline in customer demand, afflicting and changing the shape of air travel for the foreseeable future.
“Throughout time, the world has been witnessing events that change a lot of what people are accustomed to in daily life. Precedents are ample. Certainly, the post-pandemic world will be different,” Adel Rida, the executive director of operations at Emirates, the UAE’s flag carrier, told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone interview.
The pandemic has exacted an unprecedented impact on most of the world’s economic sectors. For tourism and travel, the pandemic significantly affected the performance of air carriers.
Although many countries have implemented protocols and precautionary measures that include quarantine and lockdowns, when airports reopened and these measures were eased, travel demand hiked again, confirming the world’s need for travel.
High hopes are being placed on the world getting the vaccine. This will boost the confidence of travelers, even though air travel is considered one of the safest methods.
Rida, for his part, confirmed that Emirates is prepared to take on an important role in transferring and distributing the much-anticipated vaccine to the world through its private logistics hub for vaccines at Al Maktoum International Airport.
“During the coming year, we will see more competition between airlines and service providers, and companies that have implemented more efficient procedures using technology will win preference,” Rida explained, adding that airliners will race to restore the confidence of travelers.
The executive director asserted that precautionary measures for maintaining the health and safety of travelers will remain in place. He also noted that an electronic mechanism for vaccine checks and organizing passenger entry into countries will most likely be introduced.
“Global carriers and travelers have nothing but to adapt to these conditions and the expected procedures,” Rida emphasized.
“Our post-pandemic Emirates operations will include expediting the use of technological and digital solutions and relying on artificial intelligence, enabling us to provide better customer services, improve employee productivity and reduce operational costs,” he said.
More so, innovation and development of services will work to better assimilate employees to new procedures and improve the overall experience for travelers.
“We are confident of a speedy recovery and the return of demand for travel in the near future, given that most of the economic and logistical activities, in addition to communication between countries and peoples, depend highly on the aviation sector,” Rida concluded.