The 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic has affected land and air operators severely, with the segment all but coming to a virtual standstill as tour operators and airlines have been forced to cancel due to lack of demand, as well as border closures and issues of guest safety. Further developments have seen countries around the world enact travel bans for its citizens, including Australia and New Zealand.

Upon the outbreak’s identification in Wuhan, China, reacting first were organisations such as Chinese and Asian specialist Wendy Wu Tours, which moved quickly to alter operations in the region, and has since suspended all tours until mid-April, with guests receiving 100% credit. Asian carriers have also been hit hard, with Cathay Pacific cutting its flights schedule by 90% during the month of April, and Singapore Airlines operating just 50% of its initially scheduled capacity, also until the end of April. Chinese carriers in particular have been devastated, with long-suffering Hainan Airlines effectively being forced into a takeover from a government taskforce. Other carriers in the region which have been hit include AirAsia, which has cancelled all flights from Clark International and Manila International airports in the Philippines; Jetstar Asia, which has suspended all services; All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, which between them have cancelled over 5,000 flights; and Thai operators Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways, which have collectively cut or suspended almost 70 routes.

Not immune to the virus were local carriers, with both Qantas and Virgin Australia ceasing all international flights. The Qantas Group (including Jetstar) also took the step of reducing domestic capacity by 60%, while Virgin’s domestic flight reduction came in at 90%. Budget carriers Jetstar and Tigerair Australia were also hit, the former ceasing all international flights and the latter cutting all domestic services. The drastic reduction in services has also forced both national carriers to stand-down considerable parts of its workforce, with 8,000 Virgin Australia employees out of work and the majority of Qantas staff also stood down.

Paul Scurrah, CEO and MD of Virgin Australia said, “there has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today, and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state government’s latest travel advice.”

Aviation cuts are far from restricted to just Asia-Pacific though; Lufthansa announced a cut of its long-haul capacity by up to 90%, Air New Zealand’s LH network is reduced by 85%, VA sister airline Virgin Atlantic cut flights by 80%, and British Airways and Iberia parent International Airlines Group cut capacity 75%. Even those hit more minimally were hit hard, as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced a cut of between 30 and 40 percent of flights, and Swiss International Air Lines confirming a drop 20% in its European flights.

As the outbreak spread across Asia, countries on the continent moved quickly to close borders, with South Korea tightening border checks from overseas arrivals from 17 March, and Malaysia shutting its borders to travellers completely, in addition to restricting internal movement.

However, the virus’ outbreak in Europe saw companies take more decisive action, with several tourers eventually cancelling all departures for certain periods of time.

The Globus Family of Brands suspended all travel through to the end of April, as did Bunnik Tours, G Adventures and Intrepid, while The Travel Corporation has suspended all trips in Europe, the Middle East and Asia until the end of April.

Many of those which have presently not enacted large-scale cancellations include Amtrak Vacations/Railbookers, with those who make a new booking through to 30 April able to change dates or cancel their holiday up to five days before departure without incurring any fees. Luxury Escapes is also temporarily allowing international travellers to change their dates free of charge up until the day before they travel.

The pandemic has sent ripple effects throughout the travel industry

Airlines and tourers who had not partially or completely shut operations were likely forced to with the arrival of the 11 March declaration of coronavirus as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, which saw countries across the globe swiftly close borders.

Australia took the step on 19 March, closing its borders to all visitors, except for citizens & permanent residents, as well as their close family members. Among others unquestionably closed to tourists include Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Many of these countries took additional measures, such as cancelling flights to Europe and the United States; and imposing quarantine periods on those returning. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also preventing departures, while Ecuador took the incredible step of closing its borders even to citizens and residents, for 21 days.

At the time of writing, other countries have thus far only partially closed their borders, including Algeria, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Finland, Ghana, Guyana, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Uruguay and Yemen.

All these countries have taken different measures, such as suspending travel just with Europe, restricting land border crossings, suspending all international flights, closing airports and withdrawing on-arrival visas.

Even those which seem like the simplest measures, such as banning entry to those from countries with confirmed cases, have been enacted in essentially every country on the planet, confirming that no-one has gone untouched by coronavirus.

Travel is a resilient industry, and Australians particularly have seemed to have an insatiable appetite for exploring the world. Everyone in the industry is looking forward to the days when that demand returns.