COVID-19 ‘can help prepare global tourism’ for the transformation of climate change

Published:14 May 2020

TOP: Journal authors Professor Bruce Prideaux, Dr Michelle Thompson and Dr Anja Pabel. BELOW: Global tourism will need to respond to the physical and economic changes that climate change will drive.

Lessons from COVID-19 can prepare global tourism for the economic transformation required to combat climate change.

That’s according to CQUniversity researchers who say the ‘victory of decisiveness’ in the war to conquer COVID-19 provides a useful metaphor for the need to act decisively with climate change, if that war is to be won.

They point out that the COVID-19 recovery phase will overlap with global efforts required to deal with the evolving climate crisis.

Professor Bruce Prideaux, Dr Michelle Thompson and Dr Anja Pabel have outlined their views in the latest Tourism Geographies journal, published by Routledge.

“Prior to COVID-19, many governments acknowledged the possibility of a global pandemic but saw little value in funding research and stockpiling of medical resources to deal with a future event of this type,” say the researchers from CQUniversity’s Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities.

“Similarly, many governments have acknowledged the threat of climate change, but most have hesitated to respond decisively and address the problem.

“Climate change poses a far greater threat to humanity, but because the danger is not immediate, action continues to be deferred.

“The transformations requited to restart global tourism flows post-COVID-19 will be just the first of a long series of overlapping economic and political transformations that the global tourism industry will need to respond to in coming decades.

“Beyond COVID-19, the global economy and political system will be forced to respond to climate change, a process that will necessitate further transformation of the global economy on a scale that has not been experienced since the Industrial Revolution.

“In parallel to economic transformation, global tourism will need to respond to the physical and economic changes that climate change will drive.

“For the tourism industry to thrive in a future world it must look beyond the temptation of adopting strategies based on a return to the pre-COVID-19 normal of the past and instead seek to understand how it should respond to the emerging transformation of the global economy to carbon neutrality.

“Many of the lessons that emerged from the pandemic can be applied to strategies to deal with climate change. Of most interest is the success of strategies such as ‘flattening the curve’. Application of similar strategies plus adoption of the circular economy model to wind back greenhouse gas emissions will help avert the global environmental disaster that will occur if global temperatures continue to increase.

“The pathway of the initial resumption of tourism activity post-COVID-19 is likely to be staged commencing with domestic tourism (stage 1) followed later by international travel (stage 2). In the long-term (stage 3), recovery will be influenced by the extent to which governments respond to the climate crisis and endorse the shift to a carbon-neutral economy.

“Because there is potential for a second wave of infections generated by international arrivals, it is probable that international travel will resume only when a vaccine is developed and widely administrated. The timing of stage 2 is unknown, and the level of restrictions placed on arrivals is likely to be very high and include documentary proof of vaccination.

“Within the tourism sector, it can be expected that there will be considerable disruption as major firms including hotels, transport companies and attractions collapse and are absorbed by new firms.”