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15 May 2003

SARS Concerns Leading to More Lost Tourism Jobs, U.N. Says

(Labor agency also cites security concerns, economic slump) (1120)

Concerns about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), security and
the ongoing global economic slump may cut another 5 million jobs in
2003 from the world tourism industry, according to a United Nations
agency.


The estimate dampens the optimism of early 2003 that the worst of the
aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks might be over, said
the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) in a May 14 press
release announcing a new report on tourism employment.

Asia is the worst hit region, facing up to a 30 percent loss in 2003
tourism employment, the release said.


The release said the longer the decline in tourism lasts, the more
likely the jobs loses will be permanent.


It said companies could help save jobs by adopting more flexible work
methods and re-training existing employees.


The ILO is urging governments to support travel companies'
implementation of temporary cost-saving measures in order to save as
many jobs as possible, according to the release.

Travel and tourism represent more than three percent of international
employment, the release said.


Following is the text of the ILO press release:

(begin text)

ILO sees further tourism job losses due to travel woes
SARS, economic doldrums cited as causes

Wednesday 14 May 2003


GENEVA (ILO News) -- Reduced travel due to new concerns over the
disease SARS, combined with the ongoing economic downturn, may cut
another 5 million jobs in the battered world tourism sector this year,
bringing to 11.5 million the total number of jobs lost in the sector
since late 2001, according to a new analysis by the International
Labour Office (ILO).


The ILO said the estimated 5 million additional job losses since the
start of the year come on top of some 6.5 million jobs lost during the
crisis in the travel and tourism in 2001-2002. That means a loss of
one of every seven jobs in travel and tourism since 2001, with no end
in sight, the ILO said.


The ILO said much of the recent pressure on jobs in travel and tourism
can be attributed to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
(SARS), especially in Asia and other regions. This comes on top the
global economic doldrums and other factors such as security concerns
which had driven down the number of jobs last year.


The travel and tourism industry represents over 4 per cent of global
GDP and over 3 per cent of employment worldwide. Counting suppliers
and other economic activities related to travel and tourism, the value
of the sector can reach as high as 11 of global GDP and 8 per cent of
world employment.


Prior to the slump, direct employment in the industry's own
enterprises amounted to close to 80 million, while including suppliers
and other related employment brought the total nearly 200 million jobs
worldwide.


The slump in the industry comes after a strong economy had fueled a
global tourism boom in the late 1990's. In the peak year 2000, the
number of international trips rose by a record 4.5 per cent from the
year before. In the year 2001 the industry suffered disastrous effects
from the events of September 11 and shrunk by more than 1 per cent on
an annual basis, braking the growth dynamics which are needed to keep
employment at its normal level.


The report added that prospects for a recovery are grim, saying "the
capacity of the travel and tourism industry to create employment seems
to be severely damaged by the recent events."

The new estimate of further job losses continues to dampen optimism
that began to emerge early in 2003 in the tourism sector, that the
worst of the aftermath of September 11 might be over. The sector had
just weathered a year of virtually flat growth in 2002, exacerbated by
attacks on tourists in 2002.

The crisis moves to South East Asia and the Pacific

The impact on the worldwide travel and tourism industry can be
assessed by dividing the world into three geographical zones according
to their exposure to the crisis. The countries or areas directly
affected by SARS (China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam)
may lose more than 30 per cent of their travel and tourism employment,
whereas their neighbours (Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati,
Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and others) in South East
Asia and Oceania will lose an estimated 15 per cent. The rest of the
world faces an average 5 per cent loss in tourism employment, the ILO
said.

In Thailand, one in nine jobs is in danger when travel and tourism
slumps. Thai Hotels are experiencing cancellation rates of 5 to 10 per
cent and officials in Bangkok reported that up to 50 per cent of
foreign bookings had been cancelled. The Philippines remained
moderately affected so far, with foreign arrivals dropping by 4 per
cent in the first quarter as compared to the first quarter 2002, in
spite of a 13 per cent growth in January over last December. Malaysia,
on the other hand, is affected heavily, with airline bookings down by
40 per cent and hotel occupancy rates by as much as 30 per cent.

The report warns of long term damage to employment in the sector,
noting that "additional factors need to be considered if the slump
continues," and adding that the longer the decline in travel and
tourism activities lasts, the greater the possibility that jobs will
be eliminated entirely.

New ways of getting the work done may help the sector make ends meet
in the face of declining revenues. These include more versatile
working methods, re-skilling or expanding the skills of existing
employees, more flexible working hours and so-called "multi-skilling",
where, for example, front-desk personnel will help with check-ins.

However, the report also warns that the loss of employment in tourism
and travel often hits lesser-skilled or "socially weaker" staff the
hardest, as employers tend to keep their skilled core staff through
the crisis. Part-time workers, women, migrants and younger workers
face the highest risk of losing their source of income as long as
substantial growth isn't restored, and have more difficulty finding
alternative work.

The ILO report calls on governments, employers and trade unions in
some countries to embrace or expand tripartite solutions under
recommendations made at an Informal Meeting on the Hotel and Tourism
Sector: Social Impact of Events Subsequent to 11 September 2001. The
ILO said such tripartite social dialogue is essential to supporting
affected companies and their efforts to implement temporary
cost-cutting measures that will help them stay viable and preserve as
many jobs as possible.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)