Today the global tourism industry struggles against the negative impacts of different pandemic including SARS, bird flu, swine flu and others. In recent years, the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, or SARS had negative impact on the Asian tourism and air travel. In 2003, the air travel to China was seriously disrupted by SARS epidemics. This paper evaluates such tourist sub-sector as transport and discusses the measures that could assist this sector in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic. Moreover, the paper represents information concerning macro and micro-environmental factors and the sub-sector’s position in the tourism system that can hinder the spread of the pandemic.
It is known that in recent years, a number of different pandemics, such as SARS, bird flu, swine flu and foot and mouth disease, have seriously affected many industries including those related to tourism. SARS is one of pandemic that had negative impact on Asia’s tourism industry. The numerous researches (Lui, 2011) prove the fact that in 2003, air travel to China was disrupted by SARS. v
Moreover, Rick Miller, the vice president of the research and economics at the World Travel & Tourism Council stated that the impact of SARS on many Asian destinations had been “four or five times the impact of September 11 in the States” (Clark, 2003:1). The loss in tourism revenue could cut GDP of Hong Kong by HK$11.5 billion, in case the pandemic lasted for the rest of the year(Tourism Industry, 2004).
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE PANDEMIC AND ITS IMPACT ON THE TOURISM SUB-SECTOR OF TRANSPORTATION
The severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS is a new form of disease that appeared in February, 2003 in Asia. According to the statistical data (Tasi, 2011), more than 8000 people worldwide were infected, and about 774 people died of SARS. The medical experts reported that “the culprit of this disease was a new virus that caused devastating respiratory symptoms” (Tasi, 2011:1).
SARS first was identified in the Chinese province of Guangdong in 2002. In 2003, the World Health Organization informed the tourists of the outbreak of this disease and recommended “screening departing passengers between China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States” (Lui, 2011:1).
The impact of SARS on the tourism sub-sector of transport was enormous. During the outbreak in China, thousands of tourists reduced their air travel. The research conducted by the American experts studied the severity and duration of this negative impact (Lui, 2011). It was found that different people had different reaction to the outbreak. The researchers divided public into active tourists and passive tourists. Mass media influenced the tourists’ behavior. Most travelers tried to find information about SARS prior their travel (Lui, 2011).
THE ROLE OF MACRO AND MICRO-ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AND THE SUB-SECTOR’S POSITION IN THE TOURISM SYSTEM TO HINDER THE SPREAD OF PANDEMIC
Such macro-environmental factors as social, political, cultural, economic factors influence the running of any business, including tourism. In our case, the World Health Organization issued special travel advisories to inform tourists of the pandemic in Asia (Viruses without Borders: International Aspects of SARS, 2011). Many cultural events in Hong Kong were delayed. Besides, it was found that SARS posed enormous psychological problems among the public (Experts Warn against SARS’ Psychological Impact on Asian Economy, 2003). Micro-environmental factors are closely connected with business and have direct impact on its strategy. They include not only customers, employees, suppliers, but also media. In our case, media played an important role during the outbreak as it informed the public of SARS consequences and preventive measures. Transport sector in the tourism system ceased its work to hinder the spread of pandemic in Hong Kong (Tourism Industry, 2004).
EVALUATION OF THE MAIN ASPECTS OF THE MICRO-ENVIRONMENT OF THE SUB-SECTOR AFFECTED BY THE PANDEMIC
The main aspects of the micro-environment that were affected by the pandemic include tourists or clients, and employees who work in transport sector. The tourists had no opportunity to get high quality services and the employees had no opportunity to perform their duties in a proper way because of the spread of SARS. The statistics showed that the income of personnel in Hong Kong including tour guides and drivers fall by 90% (Clark, 2003). Some employees were given advanced leave as their agencies had no clients.
DISCUSSION OF SOME MEASURES THAT COULD HELP TO DEAL WITH PANDEMIC OR MITIGATE ITS IMPACTS
As pandemic can be spread rather quickly, it is necessary to find appropriate measures that could help to deal with SARS or mitigate its negative impacts. First of all, each country should have effective reporting systems to inform public of the outbreak. Secondly, it is very important to enhance measures for disease screening as well as health related support at airports, railway stations and seaports (Viruses without Borders: International Aspects of SARS, 2011).
It was found that “many Asian countries announced financial aid to help soften the negative impacts of SARS” (The Economic Impact of SARS, 2003). For example, the government of Singapore announced to provide financial help to its tourism and transport factors, while in Malaysia’s banks it was announced to cut costs for corporate customers. Hong Kong developed a special “relief plan” that included tax breaks and loans to the victims of SARS and to disinfect their homes (The Economic Impact of SARS, 2003).
Taking the above mentioned information into consideration, it is necessary to develop effective strategy in order to mitigate pandemic’s impacts. The most effective method is to avoid work of transport sector during pandemic. Besides, it is better to close schools, universities, and to pay attention to crowded places, to supply population with special masks.
THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION OF THE PANDEMIC
It is known that SARS had been spread to 30 countries on five continents of the world just in several weeks after its outbreak in Hong Kong. In Canada, SARS was imported by travelers who came from Asia (Viruses without Borders: International Aspects of SARS, 2011). Besides Hong Kong, China and Canada, the pandemic was spread in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and some other countries.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that different pandemics always have negative impact on the successful development of tourism industry. That is why it is necessary for the global tourism industry to apply appropriate measures which will give an opportunity to reduce the negative consequences of SARS and other pandemics.
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