Decimation of tourism may plunge Pacific into poverty

Tuesday 28 April 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Regional

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Decimation of tourism may plunge Pacific into poverty
A large group of cruise passengers come ashore at Avatiu, Rarotonga.f Cook Islanders are against putting a limit on their numbers. 18053015

The decimation of the Pacific’s tourism industry by Covid-19 could plunge thousands of people into poverty, according to a new assessment by the International Labour Organisation.

Thousands of jobs across the Pacific region are dependent on visitor numbers, which have fallen to zero.

Thousands of jobs have already been lost, with resorts and hotels closing in Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa, countries where tourism makes up more than half the economy.

The higher the share of employment in tourism, the harsher the impact to workers and economies, the ILO report says.

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The ILO said with the pain brought by the pandemic expected to be long-lasting, workers with previously stable incomes are sliding into poverty.

Many of these people are informal workers, with few protections if their jobs fall through, leaving them especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.

Some governments in the region have reacted to the crisis by introducing stimulus packages and other policies in direct support to the tourism industry.

As the situation worsens and the impact on tourism industries proves both longer and deeper with each emerging day, there will be continued pressure on governments for even more assistance.

The ILO said few Pacific countries have the money to fully cope with the coronavirus response – and solidarity from the likes of Australia, New Zealand and the World Bank will be vital.

“The design of COVID-19 policy responses that focus on the crucial role of decent work is key to mitigate the adverse impacts on tourism enterprises and workers, and to achieve a sustained and equitable recovery of sector,” the report states.

The Northern Marianas’ governor has conceded the toll the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the local economy, with tourism numbers reduced to zero. But Ralph Torres said residents’ health took precedence over all else, as he acknowledged there would be tough months ahead. “Right now, health takes precedence over anything else. We have made decisions based only on what we believe is right.”

“This pandemic is filled with unknowns, but what is known is the aggressive response efforts we are taking to flatten the curve more than the rest of the world,” Torres said.

- RNZ