The global travel industry has been one of the sectors hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of jobs are at risk worldwide and several businesses have gone and are going bankrupt ever since the many lockdowns. The UN has predicted that the crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors close to $1.2 to 3.3 trillion in revenue loss.
Even as the restrictions gradually ease and flights resume, the fear of the virus itself, Covid-19 tests and mandatory quarantining on arrival will make the overall travel experience arduous and unwelcoming. Under these unprecedented circumstances, leisure trips seem like a luxury and those thriving on tourism for survival find themselves in a worrisome and uncertain position.
Travel bloggers, part of a new digital influencing phenomenon, are bearing the brunt of the pandemic too. Most international airlines still flying in and out of Pakistan and the EU has disallowed entry for most Pakistani citizens, stressing upon adherence to SOPs. Areesha Khan, a Pakistani travel blogger who has visited 40 countries says content creators relying on travel were among the first few people to get hit by the pandemic. And as leisure travel has come to a halt, not many people are visiting the blogs, resulting in loss of traffic and readership and new opportunities.
“Quite a lot of travel bloggers had to bare the losses of the trips they had planned for 2020. Those who did not have a diversified income or enough savings ended up looking for other options to earn,” Areesha The Express Tribune. “Some have also started earning by offering online classes in photography, videography, blogging or anything else people might find helpful. Not to forget, travel blogging is a niche where you need to travel to create content.”
The blogger added that her content was in demand when people were travelling and going on holidays. “They [people] wanted to know more about different countries, places, hotels, food and visa processes. But since there’s limited travelling right now, everything is at a standstill, which also means lesser traffic on my social media platforms, lesser opportunities of growth and less paid campaigns,” she explained.
Wardah Khan, another local travel blogger, said her plans got postponed due to covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on content creators is “greater than we think” She stated, “Bloggers/ influencers who work full time depend on brand affiliations and paid advertisements. But with brands cutting budgets and lowering incomes (due to lesser profits), earning prospects are greatly reduced for content creators.”
Wardah, however, stressed that bloggers can become more creative and effective with their content and help people in not just coping up with this difficult time but also assist local businesses. She believes that travel is likely to get more stressful but hopes things will get back to normal soon. “People will be less likely to interact with strangers and hostels would be affected more as they accommodate many people…but it’s only a matter of time and it will be back to normal. Hang in there, we will travel soon,” she said.
Travel blogging and local tourism
Pakistan’s tourism industry got a massive boost in the recent past, thanks to an improved law and order situation and greater awareness. Likewise, the visit of the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge last year and Conde Nast Traveller’s 2019 ranking, made quite a difference too.
Areesha believes bloggers and vloggers are playing a key role in helping local tourism reach its full potential through their social media presence. “Before the pandemic, we saw significant growth in tourism. I think the best possible way of promoting tourism without over burdening our resources and environment is to explore the undiscovered spots,” she said, hinting at the less-visited and “unexplored” spots Pakistan hosts in abundance. “For instance, there are a lot of beautiful sights to see in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab too – not just the northern areas. Even now, a lot of people aren’t aware of them but if we start promoting these, it will help a lot.”
Areesha underscored that tourism aspires to help locals, understand their culture and respect them. Wardah believes greater responsibility lies on influencers as they can also create more awareness and advocate for sustainable and eco-friendly tourism. “We have a role to play with here and let people know about environment-friendly tourism to conserve resources and save Mother Nature,” she explained.
Cheaper travel costs and no visa requirements can push travellers to domestic markets thereby supporting the local economy in dealing with the pandemic’s repercussions. Bloggers are also urging travel enthusiasts to visit local tourist spots if they are willing to head out amid the pandemic.
“Since travel is considered a luxury, unless of course absolutely necessary, I feel people will have to think twice before quickly booking their tickets and hopping on a flight to another country,” Areesha shared. “Only travel if absolutely necessary because nothing is worth risking your life. However, if things get better within your own region, start travelling locally. Support your local tourism, help the economy and then carry on with your adventures.”