COVID-19 raised concerns around the world about how quarantine would affect the functioning of economic sectors. The tourism sector has people mobility as its main foundation and, due to this nature, it is one of the areas most affected by the current scenario. Alongside this reality, the research groups that are part of the Rede Brasileira de Observatórios de Turismo (Brazilian Tourism Observatory Network – RBOT) developed a study on the effects of the pandemic on the Tourism sector in Brazil. In all, eleven observatories in the country collaborated in the construction of this study. The Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) contributed through the Tourism Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, a research group coordinated by professors Osiris Ricardo Bezerra Marques and João Evangelista Dias Monteiro, both from the UFF School of Tourism and Hospitality.

The study called “Business survey of the impacts of COVID-19 in the Tourism sector in Brazil” came about with the objective of producing analyzes that could help state and municipal governments to understand the demands and needs of companies in this area in the country, aiming at the elaboration of government actions to minimize damage to the sector. “Until then, each group conducted its research in isolation. With the advent of the new coronavirus, RBOT detected the need to produce together. The investigation of some data at the national level has become essential to understand the specific effects of the pandemic on tourism. Therefore, the network’s observatories saw the opportunity to carry out teamwork to monitor the impacts of the coronavirus on tourism businesses,” explains Professor Osiris.

The professor reports that the research is based on demonstrating how companies are doing in terms of recovery, revenue, layoffs, breath for survival, in addition to cash flow. “To understand the evolution of the decisions and expectations of businessmen in the sector over the months from January to April 2020, the group discussed adjustments to an initial questionnaire already prepared by the Tourism Observatory of São Paulo. After adapting the questions for application at the national level, each observatory was responsible for disseminating the questionnaire in the municipalities of its state. The survey was conducted with 4,921 companies, in thirteen states, between April 8 and 27. Finally, we compiled and organized the information for all RBOT members to disclose.”

 

Tourism: from growth to collapse

Realizing that tourism is still quite vulnerable in relation to its recovery capacity, given its essence, Osiris highlights, first of all, a reality in the sector that is reflected in the research: most are individual microentrepreneurs, micro, and small companies — more than 90%. “To a large extent, this characteristic explains the results we obtained. We also noticed that the tourism business started to be affected especially in March and April 2020,” he signals. Specifically, Osiris points out some important conclusions from the study. “It appears that 45% of the companies interviewed have fired or are going to fire employees. Regarding the expectation of recovery, about 51% of them wait for it to materialize in the year 2021, while 12% believe that this will only happen from 2022 onwards. However, because they are micro and small businesses, their breath of survival is very short: 30% of businesses have the cash flow to survive just one month; another 27%, from one to two months, and 20% of businesses manage to survive two to four.”

Professor João Evangelista, also a coordinator of the Tourism Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, says that despite the continuous growth of the flow of international travel in the world in the last ten years, the pandemic can be really serious for tourism. “Between 2009 and 2019, the proportion of tourists increased considerably. According to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2019 the sector represented 10.3% of world GDP and was responsible for 300 million direct jobs worldwide. Restriction measures implemented due to the pandemic have interrupted this period of growth in global tourism and business is collapsing. Projections from the World Tourism Organization released on May 12 show that the scenarios are headed for a 58% to 78% retraction in the flow of international tourists,” he admits.

The expert points out that the data collected by the RBOT study indicate a deterioration in the conditions of tourist activities in Brazil. “About 30% of companies have adopted some price reduction strategy in response to the drop in demand due to social isolation. From then on, they started to suffer some impacts, such as retraction in billing. At the end of April, more than 60% of them were in quarantine, closed or with a 100% reduction in revenues.” João points out that, at this moment, the big challenge is to save the largest number of businesses, minimizing the impacts of the pandemic, and that a solution would be to provide low-cost credit to the sector. According to him, government actions are of great need to support the sector’s recovery in the coming months, until 2021.

Given this situation, Osiris points out that the prospects for the tourism area are not promising, as reflected in the results obtained in the study. “Without the movement of people, there is no tourism and all businesses that depend on it, directly or indirectly, may disappear. Although some measures already announced by the federal government are important at first, they have a duration. It seems insufficient when the sector requires some attention from assistance policies in the longer term. In addition, bureaucracy is a factor that has made it difficult for companies to access the resources made available.”

Finally, the teacher brings a question that, if answered, can help the sector to face the challenges it is experiencing at the moment. “You need to know when people will be able to travel safely. The main source for resolving this impasse is scientific knowledge; that’s why it is so fundamental. Despite the difficulties imposed by the quarantine, a collective effort is necessary for universities and research centers to fulfill their role and continue to produce quality knowledge. I am proud to be able to collaborate in the area in which I work and compose the mosaic of the various researches and actions that are being implemented.”

 

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