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Review of Tourism Interventions in Developing Countries and Recommendation for Evaluation Sensitive to COVID-19 Impacts



Subject Tourism Pages 12 Style APA


  • Background and Introduction

The World Tourism Organization defines tourism as an economic activity where people travel and stay in places away from their usual environment for purposes of business, leisure, and other reasons for a period not exceeding one sequential year. It can be categorized into domestic or international tourism. The activities involved in tourism such as travelling, accommodation, and the leisure or recreational activities collectively impact the economic factors of a country. On the other hand, tourism activities are vulnerable to changes in the micro and macro environment. Abiad, Rosa, and Suzette provides a detailed narration noting that countries without natural resources, often invest more in tourism with the intent of attracting domestic and international tourists (9). Some of these countries have developing and emerging economies, where the tourism and hospitality industry contribute significantly towards creating employment activities, and sustaining the local economies of the communities. Stubbs et al argue that most developing countries dependent on tourism have small populations of less than 1 million or few millions of citizens (105171). As much as tourism enables these countries to achieve their economic goals especially by creating a desirable balance of payment, the industry is prone to uncertainties and disruptions. These factors contribute towards the seasonality of the sector thus instability in the revenues collected. An example of a developing country dependent on tourism is the Maldives. The country borders the Indian Ocean which provides the warm beaches and beautiful scenery admired by tourists. According to Stubbs et al, 20 more other developing countries depend on tourism for more than 10% of their revenues and gross domestic product (GDP). In spite of the significance of the tourism activities, all countries dependent on tourism are exposed to unpredictable change in climate, rising sea levels which threaten coastal properties, changing marine ecosystems such as death of coral reefs, extensive salinization of the sea which threatens flora and fauna, as well as extreme weather events among other natural and manmade calamities.

In 2020, the tourism industry has been hardest hit by the Corona Virus also known as COVID-19. Arellana, Luis, and Victor describe COVID-19 as an on-going global health pandemic currently ranked as the worst pandemic after the Second World War to affect the globe (18). The flu pandemic has surpassed all the past outbreaks in terms of severity, prevalence, and number of deaths caused. The World Trade and Tourism Council (WTTC) reports that by April 14, 2020, the virus had been confirmed in more than 180 countries and had infected more than 1.98 million globally while causing an estimated 126,753 deaths worldwide. The travel, hospitality, and tourism industry was considered a key vector in the importation and export of the COVID-19 virus across countries, thus, the sector was brought to a standstill by the resultant regulations and measures. This includes introduction of strict restrictions against travel and lockdowns to curtail human movement and spread of the virus. Economic modelling by Matiza further justifies the impacts resulting from the inverse relationship between demand for tourism and COVID-19 (13). Contrary to past health crisis namely SARS in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and China, Ebola in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and MERS in Saudi Arabia, all of which had localized economic impact, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all countries and caused unprecedented impacts. According to Bakar, Nashirah Abu, and Sofian, the global tourism industry could lose 75 million jobs and report a GDP deficit of US$2.1 trillion. Guided by this information, this impact evaluation review paper assesses the impact of COVID-19 on tourism in developing countries (6). It achieves this objective by reviewing tourism interventions adopted in developing countries and making recommendations for evaluations sensitive to COVID-19 impacts.

  • Description of class of interventions

Change management can be categorized into four levels. The first level is known as strategic level intervention. It involves strategic management and planning which is helpful in defining the key organizational anchors and design that enable the business to be sensitive and responsive to changes in external and internal environment. Secondly, operations management interventions focus on internal structures and systems. This class of intervention eradicates factors that make it difficult for the organization to install and maintain its systems, or deter its ability to expand and perform complex tasks. Operational management could further entail training and knowledge management to enhance the expertise of the employees in managing challenging workplace requirements. The third class of interventions is project development and program management interventions. This class addresses inherent weaknesses in the management of organizations. Some of the problems addressed at this level of intervention include identifying performance metrics with precision and installing systems for evaluating how programs are managed. The fourth class of intervention is referred to as institutional development interventions. This class entails evaluating interventions that impact the linkage and relationships between an organization and other entities within a society. The organizations in the tourism industry are highly linked thus, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of these relationships in the face of COVID-19. Understanding the nature of the relationships and links is important in informing the widespread impact of the pandemic on the industry.

For this paper, the application of the four classes of intervention will be more effective if the model is inverted to begin with institutional development interventions moving backwards. At the onset of the corona virus, there were reports that the airports and air travel contributed the most number of inflections. This is attributed to the fact that air transport enables fast and speedy movement of people. Therefore, countries reacted hastily by closing down airports. The lockdown of travel services means that the network and linkages between countries and other stakeholders was cut. The tourists could not freely move around the world and this affected the flow of revenues across countries. Chebli and Foued argue that most of the institutional development interventions were taken impulsively and have no scientific backing (199). It is because of the knee-jack responses that the tourism industry was adversely affected. For this reason, the industry will lose more than 90% of its revenues in 2020. The irrational and uncoordinated efforts by different stakeholders along the tourism network to reduce infections were mostly driven by the government side. After national governments introduced lockdown measures to curtail movements, the other players along the network had no choice but to adhere to the rules. Besides, the lack of information on the COVID-19 disease and its transmission led to widespread fear among potential tourists. Thus, the announcement of the pandemic severely threatened the continuity of the industry in the short term.

This class of intervention activated the project development and program management interventions. Given that the pandemic was unavoidable, the immediate reaction by the tourist organization and other key players affected their ability to collect revenues during the crisis. As much as some tourist sites in the developed countries opted to digitize their tourist sites, those in emerging and developing economies lacked the capital and incentive to introduce technologies such as virtual reality. For this reason, it was hard to continue reaching tourists who were locked out of their favorite destinations. The uncertainty associated with the lockdown and the future of the industry forced tourist sites to cut expenses by stopping advertisements and other market activities that could increase their operation costs. The main objective at this stage was cutting down costs since the firms were not making revenues to cater for their financial needs. This class of interventions allows the firms to embrace the operations management intervention. Mostly, the firms had to anticipate for the worst and thus, opted to digitize their services. Matiza reports that the emergence of more reliable and faster video chatting tools such as Zoom presented the tourist venues in developing countries with options to embrace digital tourism (13). Organizations that wanted to digitize their systems had to find innovative ways of introducing systems and performing complex tasks required to virtualize their tourist venues and earn revenues from showcasing their sites remotely to local and international tourists. The process required training of their employees and empowering them with technologies to facilitate working from home while easily managing virtual tour sites. Also, those firms that adhered to the COVID-19 regulations were allowed to operate but mostly served local tourists since international flights are still locked down.

The strategic level intervention strategies embraced by the firms involved undertaking changes in business strategies to accommodate the new reality created by the pandemic. Tourism organizations in developing countries undertook three main strategic changes. For instance, they had to switch from cost leadership strategies to differentiation and focus strategies. Most organizations had to move away from offering general services to providing unique value propositions in order to attract customers. In addition, the firms had to focus their services to attract tech savvy customers, mostly working from home. Farzanegan notes that the tech savvy millennial prefer to use digital archives to access tourist destinations during the lockdown periods (71). This strategy is an alternative to physical visits to the parks, and museums as the clients are provided with digital archives where they can access digital content with ease and at the comfort of their homes. Romagosa argues that because of the poor state of tourist sites especially the museums in developing countries, the tour companies prefer charging a small fee thus using the cost leadership strategy (3). However, the high expenses required in facilitating the transition from physical visits to digital archives such as the use of virtual reality contributed towards differentiation of services thus attracting premium prices for the tourism services provided. To facilitate the realization of the business strategies, tourist firms in developing countries such as South Africa had to adopt operational strategies. The key considerations in embracing these strategies required questioning whether the tourist firms had the capability, technology, processes, and the people to enable the transition to digital tourism. Since the third world countries lack these resources, it was necessary that the firms enhance their capabilities, purchase new technologies, introduce new processes, and train their employees on how to manage the systems. Qiu et al clarify that there activities are mostly being taken in stages thus, only few firms can comfortably raise the much needed revenues to effect the operational strategies (102).

The third set of strategies by organizations in tourism industry entail embracing the transformational strategies. These strategies are the least taken since they require a complete change of the entire organization or business. Uğur and Adem explains that the transformation strategy goes over and beyond typical business strategies discussed above since it requires highly disruptive and radical changes in technology, process, and people (105). Very few organizations, especially in the developing countries can willingly consider this strategy since it is a complex and uncertain process. In the case of the tourism firms, some especially in Maldives and South Africa had to change their businesses entirely and venture into the production of essential services and products. For instance, tourism firms found opportunities in producing masks, and sanitizers. These new ventures require minimal initial capital outlay thus proved to be an easy approach to complementing their income streams now that tourism was no longer lucrative. Firms such as tour agencies opted to convert their cars to delivery vans and cars. These changes were taken in anticipation that e-commerce would significantly grow during this period. Their predictions were right since the e-retail sector experienced significant growth both in the developed and developing countries. The number of online transactions increased meaning that more cars were needed to facilitate delivery of goods and services to clients working from home.

  • Focus of the review

The scope of this impact evaluation review paper is limited by a number of actors. First, it is limited to the tourism industry in the developing countries. According to Jones and Daphne, the tourism industry in developing countries especially in Asia and Africa contribute towards economic development and promoting peace (78). Even though the impact of the industry is often underestimated, it has contributed towards job creating, and generation of revenue for governments. In addition, the industry is credited for promoting diversity in income generation, protecting the environment, and enhancing cross-cultural awareness. Globally, the industry is ranked as the fourth largest. According to Abiad et al, some of the developing countries dependent on tourism in Asia include India, Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, and China (86). In Africa, countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, Libya, Mali, Guinea, Madagascar, and DRC are among the most dependent on tourism. The actual contribution of the tourism sector to the economy of these countries is represented in figure 1 below.


Figure 1: Developing countries dependent on tourism (Madden, para 5)

A narrow focus on these study population necessitates identification of three developing countries to analyze in details. These countries are Nigeria in Africa, Venezuela in North America, and Pakistan in Asia (KNOEMA, para 2). The selection of these countries is based on consideration of factors such as revenues and number of jobs created by the tourism sector. A common trend is that the three countries receive among the highest revenues and benefit extensively from the employment opportunities created by the tourism industry. Empirically, the tourism industry contributed to $2 billion in 2018. ATTA reports that the tourism industry has contributed towards the booming of the construction sector in Nigeria (para 3). The continent as a whole has more than 282 mega projects targeting tourism. Out of these projects, 26 are in Abuja. Nigeria has over the past decade attracted increased foreign direct investments directed to the tourism industry. As of 2017l, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that tourism contributed to 34% of the country’s GDP and created a total of 20% of the annual jobs in the country.

Venezuela is a developing country whose GDP growth is dependent on manufacturing, petroleum, and tourism sectors. In 2019, the industry contributed 9.1% of the country’s GDP. Similarly, the industry contributed towards employment opportunities and increased spending from foreign direct investors. Contrary to Nigeria where the contribution of tourism has steadily boosted the country’s GDP, Venezuela has reported a shaky trend exhibited by a drop in 2018 and 2019. It is expected that 2020 will report the biggest dip as the industry continued to be negatively impacted by the lockdowns and other restrictive policies. The third country that sets the scope for this intervention paper is Pakistan. The World Travel and Tourism Council reported that in 2017, tourism contributed towards 6.9% of Pakistani’s GDP (Manzoor, Longbao & Muhammad, 3785). This percentage translates to $19.4 billion. Besides, the industry accounted for more than 6% of the jobs created in the same year. By 2019, the contribution margin of tourism activities had risen to 7.2% of the country’s GDP. An additional country that epitomizes the significance of tourism is Maldives. In 2019, more than 28% of its GDP resulted from tourism activities while 60% of the foreign exchange was attributed to receipts from foreign tourists. To further consolidate the focus of this review, the paper analyzes tourism intervention across these listed countries and further highlights the sensitivity of this industry to impacts of COVID-19.

  • Details of review methodology

The process of collecting data for this impact evaluation review paper was guided by a set of research methods. For this paper, the methodological approach entailed outlining research questions followed by investigations on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism in the case study countries identified. Zangirolami-Raimundo, Jorge, & Claudio propose three methodological approaches namely quantitative methods, qualitative methods, and mixed methods (358). Quantitative methods include surveys. They are used when presenting empirical data collected through categorizing, identifying patterns, ranking, and measuring. Qualitative methods are used when collecting information on the behavior of a phenomenon. The most suitable research approaches include interviews. They are best for collecting opinions that help in interpreting, describing, contextualizing, and providing detailed insights on specific phenomena and concepts (Zangirolami-Raimundo et al, 359). Mixed methods involve combining quantitative and qualitative methods. For this paper, the mixed method is preferable since it combines both empirical data and business models and theories such as change management and strategy formulation. Using mixed methods enabled the researcher to combine both qualitative and quantitative data to facilitate interpretation of the interventions and formulation of inferences.

Another significant part of the methodology is data collection. The process involves identifying and collecting suitable data for analysis. Kumar identifies varieties of methods namely surveys, experiments, desk research, interviews/ focus groups, and participant observation (9). Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it was impossible to conduct physical research studies such as visiting different tourist destinations in the case study countries. In addition, logistical challenges associated with travelling to the countries of interest made it impossible to visit. Instead, this research collected data and information using the desk research approach to data collection. The process involved identifying and assessing secondary data provided online through search engines and digital databases namely esbcohost, Jstor, and Google scholar. These sources enabled the researcher to access vital information that was critically analyzed to suit the current research interests of this paper. This includes searching for information on tourism interventions on developing countries and associated recommendations to curb the negative impacts experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data collected was then analyzed. Kumar proposes diverse approaches to analyzing data (11). This includes the use of quantitative methods where tools such as statistical software or statistical methods can be used to ease sorting and understanding of empirical data collected on the topic of interest. Kumar adds that some of the best qualitative methods for analyzing raw data include content analysis, narrative analysis, and discourse analysis (12). These methods of analyzing data enable coding, categorizing, and interpretation of data. Since this paper used mixed methods, it was prudent to combine both qualitative and quantitative methods of analyzing raw data. Nonetheless, the empirical data collected from secondary sources was already analyzed using various statistical software and other mathematical tools, namely computations of gross domestic product, and other economic parameters. As a result, the data and information used was directly applicable to this paper.

  • Findings

The findings made in this section represent a critical review of the impact of COVID-19 on tourism across the four developing countries. In addition, it presents the findings made after evaluation of proposals on the best tourism intervention approaches that will make the countries less sensitive to the impacts of COVID-19. This section is summarized into four main sub-sections, namely theory of change, construction of counterfactual arguments, identification of technical and analytical procedures, and defensibility of impact claims.

Theory of Change

Change management is an essential undertaking for any industry and organization especially during a crisis. In the case of the tourism industry, the businesses are facing a crisis necessitated by COVID-19. Therefore, they have to change in one way or the other to properly reposition themselves and gain competitive advantages. Some of the change management models applicable to the case countries and the businesses include Kotter’s change management theory. This model is composed of eight stages that guide employees into embracing change. It begins by creating the urgency for change. In this case, the companies in the tourism industry have to acknowledge inevitability of change and condition their employees to anticipate. The second step is building teams with the right knowledge, skills, and personalities to drive the change process. The third step is sharing the vision for the change process. The fourth step is to communicate to the teams how the changes should be implemented. The fifth step is removing barriers to change followed by creating short-term wins. The seventh step is sustaining the acceleration and lastly, embedding the changes into the organization culture. McKinsey model is another important change model. Its core elements include structure, strategy, systems, skills, style, staff, and shared value. This theory is equally helpful in explaining the need for change to counter the negative impacts of COVID-19 on tourism activities in the four developing countries.

The sequence of events necessitating this change are detailed as follows. It is notable that all the four countries, Nigeria, Venezuela, Maldives, and Pakistan all reacted to the announcements by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the COVID-19 pandemic was highly infectious through air. This meant that the disease was airborne. The WHO encouraged people to stay at home to avoid interactions with others. It was reported that the virus could easily be spread through the aerosols emitted when people had face to face communications. National governments reacted to these announcements by introducing lockdown policies in addition to healthcare guidelines such as sanitizing, and reducing contact with objects and people (Matiza, 14). Additional changes included banning of travel activities especially international flights and travels. These changes in policies closed down the international airspace, but provided opportunities for limited localized movements. Tourism activities reduced unexpectedly thus making it unbearable for the tourism firms to sustain their operations. Workers were sent home as firms downsized their employees. These changes in the industry and on the tourism firms can be explained by the McKinsey’s model as it interrupted all of the seven elements. Firms had to forfeit their shared values, change their systems, strategy, structure, style, staff, and skills to survive. These changes were reported across all the four developing countries. The results translated into reduced to no tourism activities, thus cutting off all revenue streams for the tourism industry.

Construction of a counterfactual

Tourism interventions taken by the four countries at an individual level are outlined below. Globally, most of the interventions have been necessitated by UNWTO which has been calling upon countries to relax their stance against COVID-19 policies. This includes reducing travel restrictions as it underscores cooperation and tourism activities. WTTC has equally been asking governments to intervene in the crisis facing the tourism industry by cutting travel taxes, simplifying VISA requirements, and adopting incentives to encourage travel and tourism. The WTTC further encourages visitors to postpone travel activities instead of cancelling their plans to tour certain countries. Additional interventional measures affecting both developed and developing countries are summarized in figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Tourism Interventions in Developing Countries (Madden).

At the local level, the four countries, Nigeria, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Maldives have been vibrant in intervening the crisis at a local level. This includes introducing monetary and fiscal policies that inject more capital into supporting tourism firms as they contribute immensely towards the GDP’s of their respective countries. The harsh impact of COVID-19 on tourism across the four developing countries whose economies are dependent on tourism have had to compromise with most of the earlier regulations curtailing movements (Rogerson & Jayne, 390). Currently, they are all advocating for relaxed restrictions on international travel. The countries cannot thrive through domestic tourism alone. As much as it offers a chance for recovery of the industry, there is need for increased regional travels to achieve a steady balance of payment. In addition, allowing tourism to continue will save jobs, while helping the tourism businesses to collect revenues to kick-start their operations again.

Policy makers across the four countries agree that there is a need for joint efforts in rebuilding and reopening of the tourist destinations in the developing countries so that the firms and the workers can benefit. Similarly, opening up tourism activities post-COVID will stimulate the economy. However, the likely interventions that will ensure sustainability of the industry include lifting of the restrictions on travel. The national governments in Nigeria, Pakistan, Maldives, and Venezuela will be required to increase the access of the local firms to liquidity support. Likewise, these firms will need support from the government to implement measures to protect tourists against the spread of the corona virus. These measures will promote safe travel across the world and encourage diversity across these markets. Additional tourism interventions that will restore the confidence of travelers and stimulate increased demand for tourism activities is through transparent dissemination of information and data. The governments across the four countries need to introduce information apps to share real time information on the state of the pandemic while also, using the platform to promote electronic tourism and for promotional campaigns. In addition to these measures, there is a need for the countries to prepare comprehensive recovery plans for the tourism industry (Rogerson & Jayne, 400). This includes rebuilding dilapidated tourist destinations, embracing innovations, and rebranding of the tourism sectors at the local levels by introducing more offers and variety of tourism activities to attract more people.

Technical and analytical procedures

As detailed in the review methodology section, this paper is based on an objective collection and analysis of data and information. It presents quantitative and qualitative information collected from secondary sources of data. This implies that the data used in the paper is carefully selected to ensure its integrity. It would have been prudent to conduct a primary research study but because of logistical challenges in addition to the international lockdown of economies, it was impossible to visit the countries and collect first-hand information on the impact. Nonetheless, secondary information is available online from the four identified countries. The only shortcoming of the secondary sources is that the biases by the authors could easily infiltrate the current study. To avoid this challenge and ensure the integrity of the paper, it was necessary to compare various sources of information to identify the most suitable information to analyze and present in this research. Besides, biased sources were eliminated through critical analysis of their content to identify the accuracy of data presentation and causal attribution.

Defensibility of impact claims

The claims presented in the paper are mostly backed by credible sources. This includes information collected from authoritative international bodies and agencies involved in regulating tourism activities such as UNCTAD, WHO, UNWTO, and WTTC. In addition, applying theories to guide systematic review

  • Conclusion and implications, recommendations

This impact evaluation review paper assesses the impact of COVID-19 on tourism activities and resultant interventions in developing countries. The paper describes COVID-19 as an ongoing pandemic that has negatively affected the tourism industry. The pandemic led to closure of the global travel and tourism industry as it was associated with the importation and exportation of the virus across countries. Besides, international agencies namely WTTC and WHO emphasized the need for people to refrain their movements. The threat of contracting the disease, and its purported impact on the healthcare and economic systems motivated national governments to lockdown their countries and restrict movement of people and other resources. Given the dependence of the tourism industry on the movement of people, the lockdown shut down the industry. The impact has been unimagined for countries who GDP is dependent on tourism. One of these countries is Maldives whose 24% of the national GDP is derived from tourism. Apart from this country, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Pakistan stand out as having more than 7% of their economies funded through revenue from tourism. This is a significant percentage of their economic output. As a result, the impact of the closure of travel and tourism has been immense across these countries.

Some of the impacts noted across the four developing countries include change in strategies among the key players in the travel and tourism industry. As predicted by the four levels of class interventions, the businesses in the industry reacted differently by adjusting their strategies, processes, operations, and institutional attributes to sustain themselves during this pandemic. The review focused on developing countries, where four countries whose GDP is dependent on tourism, namely Maldives, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Pakistan are considered. The methodology adopted entailed using qualitative and quantitative data and information to identify the interventions and impacts of the pandemic. The findings show that as much as COVID-19 has negatively affected and continued to compromise the posterity of tourism activities, organizations and national governments are adopting countermeasures to facilitate the revival and reconstruction of the industry. For instance, multiple agencies are coming together to ease the visa acquisition process, while engaging in talks with governments in developing and developed economies to ease travel restrictions (Gretzel et al, 1). Besides, governments have been requested to subsidize taxes, and provide financial incentives to the tourism industry to facilitate revival. Customers are encouraged to embrace e-tourism and local tourism.

Guided by this evaluation, the following recommendations are made to the developing countries. First, the governments should invest more in tourism and travel industry. The process requires upgrading social amenities and infrastructure, namely road transport and information technology systems to enable the transition to a digitalized tourism industry (Gretzel et al, 1). This process means that the cost of acquiring devices and using the internet should be reduced to enable the tourist firms to produce and share video content that could enable them generate revenues virtually. As much as this option will reduce physical visits thus patronage of hotels, it is a viable alternative for collecting revenues to sustain the tourist sites in developing countries.

The second recommendation is that the government provides the firms with financial incentives to enable them boost their operations. At the moment, most of the tourism firms are having a problem financing their operations. Thousands of agencies and firms have closed down for lack of capital. It is the responsibility of the government to bail out these firms and support them to stabilize their operations.

Third, the firms in operation have to embrace new approaches to generating revenues. This could require diversification strategies or a change of processes. Diversification through either vertical or horizontal integration are equally important in increasing the portfolio of an organization thus enabling it to leverage its operations against pandemics and uncertainties in the tourism industry.




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