Experts expected “Data” to be the new fuel of the industry a while ago. With COVID-19, it is an ideal opportunity for SMEs and startups to invest in user-enabled location data to track overcrowdedness and frequency of visits to specific locations. Virtual Reality (VR) and webcams at national parks and other attractions might also be useful at this stage.
While the lockdown in MENA countries eliminates inbound tourism in the meantime, the economic slowdown in developed countries will impede it afterwards. The industry, according to the World Economic Forum, will take up to 10 months to recover. Based on these speculations, travel enterprises will need to focus on local tourists for some time before being able to monetise any inbound travel plans.
Development programs accordingly should respond by shifting from inbound tourism to inland and VR tourism. At least in the first year, most travellers will be either local or virtual.
The industry, in its current form, will be drastically affected. Based on the World Bank 2018 data, 4.2 million tourists visited Jordan, 12.3 million visited Morocco, 15.3 million visited KSA (mostly religious tourists), and 21.3 million visited UAE – which could lose way more if the pandemic lasts until World Expo 2020 in October. In 2019, Jordan earned $5.8 billion from tourism. In 2020, the country will incur huge losses since the March-May season is already out of question.