Tackling Coronavirus (COVID-19) Contributing to a Global Effort: Tourism Policy Responses

Author OECD

Most recently updated at the end of March 2020, this OECD report contains an overview of general government policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis at that time, with a focus on travel and tourism. While individual countries have implemented these policies in various ways, in the main, these responses can be grouped into the following categories designed to: Protect visitors; Protect tourism workers; Support business survival, in particular SMEs; and to Promote sector recovery. The report then goes on to examine the individual country responses from its member and partner countries, as governments attempt to offset the economic impacts of the effect of COVID-19 on both international and domestic travel and to support recovery.

Date added 10 November 2020
Last updated 10 November 2020

The travel and tourism economy is facing an unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19. This report from the OECD examines tourism policy responses from various of its member and partner countries.

The OECD has created a map of country-by-country COVID-19 economic measures, available here.

A preliminary overview of country policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights three major response categories and types of responses:

People: protecting visitors and tourism workers

    • Visitor protection. “Tourists outside their normal environment often suffer from an information deficit and countries are taking steps to provide assistance and information in multiple languages and formats”.
    • Workers support. Including “reduction of working hours, temporary lay-offs and sick-leave. Some countries have introduced measures specifically aimed at the self-employed".

Firms: ensuring travel and tourism business survival

      • Business Survival. Including “financial relief to tourism SMEs, such as postponed VAT payment … liquidity injections … information on helping to prevent the spread of the virus, supports to provide flexibility and relief for companies and workers in the reduction of working hours, temporary lay-offs and sick leave, financial instruments to reduce the impact (e.g. tax relief, guarantees, grants), measures regarding procurement and late payments, and actions to help SME adopt new work processes and find new markets”.

Sectoral Policy: fostering co-ordination for targeted responses

    • Taskforces and co-ordination measures. “These mechanisms often aim to identify those sub-sectors in the greatest distress and where immediate assistance is required.”
    • Sector Recovery. Some countries (e.g. Australia, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand) are also looking at marketing efforts to encourage demand from alternative markets and change the country image.”

While the immediate effects of COVID-19 on travel and tourism originally were felt in China, it was not long before the virus was recognised as a pandemic, and many governments followed suit by placing restrictions of varying degrees on both international travel, and on movement domestically, although the report does note that domestic tourism is likely to recover more quickly than international tourism.

The OECD report also recognises the varying levels of importance of tourism to different countries. While international tourism directly contributes to an average of “4.4% of GDP, 6.9% of employment, and 21.5% of service exports across all OECD countries", country by country some are much more heavily reliant upon the industry than others:

"For example, tourism in Spain contributes 11.8% of GDP while travel represents 52.3% of total service exports, in Mexico these figures are 8.7% and 78.3%, in Iceland 8.6% and 47.7%, in Portugal 8.0% and 51.1%, and in France 7.4% and 22.2%8 … the share of tourism employment represents 15.7% of total employment in Iceland, 13.5% in Spain, 10.3% in Ireland, 10.0% in Greece, and 9.8% in Portugal.”

In addition to listing tourism policy responses by country, the OECD also reports on a selection of impacts on various sectors of the tourism economy, including on:

  • Transport, incorporating: Aviation; Cruises; Railways; Tour Operators
  • Accommodation: Hotels; the Platform Economy; Holiday Resorts; and
  • Other Sectors: Restaurants; Business Travel; Culture and Entertainment; and Tour Guides.

The report also recognises that “the crisis is also highlighting shortcomings in the availability of timely and comparable data to support policy making in quickly evolving situations”. It therefore also sets out some of the policy responses that have been driven by the industry itself:

"Turismo de Portugal, for example, has refocused its work to collect and provide market information on a weekly basis to companies, and is developing digital content for national operators in each market".

The entire industry has felt the impact of the crisis for many months. This report, most recently updated at the end of March 2020 highlights some of the industry led responses, especially those around furloughing staff, introducing Personal Protective equipment for staff, changing booking policies, and introducing a wide range of digital solutions to ensure business continuity through this crisis where at all possible.