Advanced technology for pandemic protection and preparedness can save leisure and tourism

Of the many sectors in the global economy, leisure, sport and tourism are three ‘patients’ that have struggled longest to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism’s suffering earns almost daily bedside bulletins.

COVID-19 pandemic affecting the tourism industry

The latest being France moving to the UK’s amber list, enabling fully vaccinated people to avoid quarantine – only for this breakthrough to be marred by President Macron’s new ‘COVID Passport’ scheme, causing a new chaos in the French tourist industry.

It highlights an all too familiar pattern during the COVID crisis: just as businesses glimpse a chance to bounce back, they then face new obstacles – tourism is still stricken by many curfews and travel restrictions to stop the spread of the virus across the globe.  

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) tourism barometer points to an 88% decline in the number of international tourist arrivals so far in 2021.

Paul Stannard is the Chairman of Vector Innovation Fund (VIF), an investment vehicle helping to accelerate the use of enabling technology for pandemic protection and preparedness.

“COVID-19 is causing fewer fatalities but the spread of infection is not stopping and new variants in the younger population who may be more vaccine-hesitant than older people.”

“Governments must maintain legislation and restrictions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 which is the biggest barrier for the tourism industry. Continued investment in technology is required to support the industry in managing economies as well as healthcare.”

“After double vaccination of the UK population, we go straight into booster injections in the lead up to winter. Its an ongoing challenge that we must deal with against infectious diseases.”

Pandemic’s financial repercussions on leisure and tourism

The financial repercussions from not doing so have been highlighted by a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report showing how declining international tourism due to the pandemic could cause a $1.7-$2.4 trillion industry loss in 2021, and a potential loss of more than $4 trillion to the global GDP for 2020 and 2021 combined.

“Recovery will rely on global uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, but the damage already caused could have long term effects,” UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant has urged.

“We need a global vaccination effort that protect workers, mitigate adverse social effects and make strategic decisions regarding tourism, taking potential structural changes into account.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Tourism is a lifeline for millions and advancing vaccination to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources, especially in developing countries, many of which are highly dependent on international tourism.”

VIF Chairman Paul Stannard added, “The world needs accelerated antiviral drug solutions to manage infectious diseases so that industries and our way of life can continue without the level of disruption we have seen over the last few years.”

“Much of this technology is within our grasp, particularly the highly innovative nanotech sector that has done alot to assist the fight against COVID-19 but needs investment now.”

“Looking ahead, it is essential to understand how we can invest in technology that supports pandemic protection and preparedness, not just for healthcare provision.”