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“Pandemics, tourism, and global change: a rapid assessment of COVID-19” by Stefan Goessling, Daniel Scott, and C. Michael Hart (article in “Journal of Sustainable Tourism”, published online: April 2020).

Tourism is especially susceptible to measures to counteract pandemics because of restricted mobility and social distancing. The paper compares the impacts of COVID-19 to previous epidemic/pandemics and other types of global crises and explores how the pandemic may change society, the economy, and tourism. It discusses why COVID-19 is an analogue to the ongoing climate crisis, and why there is a need to question the volume growth tourism model advocated by UNWTO, ICAO, CLIA, WTTC and other tourism organizations. Against this background of a rapidly evolving global pandemic, this paper has four interrelated goals. First, to critically review the literature on the impact of previous epidemic/pandemics on global tourism and compares these events to other types of global crises. This section also examines whether the COVID-19 pandemic was an unknowable risk. Second, the paper provides a rapid assessment of the reported impacts of COVID-19 on global tourism through to the end of March 2020, including documented travel restrictions by each country and declines in air travel and accommodations. The differential regional impacts and implications for development are also examined. Recognizing that the impact to global tourism has only just begun, the third goal is to summarize early estimates of the damage to the tourism economy over 2020 and beyond. Because of the tremendous uncertainty, these early estimates are critically assessed against available epidemiological modelling and public health scenarios for restrictions on travel and public gatherings. Finally, the paper considers how the COVID-19 pandemic may change society, the economy, and tourism, and some of the key research needs to understand these changes and contribute to a more sustainable post-pandemic tourism sector. As soon as the virus is under control, there will be an urge by many to go back to business as usual, perhaps to overcompensate for losses by even more aggressive growth. Yet, the crisis holds important messages regarding the resilience of the tourism system, also in regard to other ongoing crises that are not as immediate, but potentially even more devastating than COVID-19, such as climate change.