Image: © rgags via Twenty20

Some countries will pay you to go on holiday there

They're trying to counter the damage the pandemic has done to the tourism sector.

Tourism makes up a b-i-g chunk of the global economy. It’s responsible for more than a tenth of all jobs and global GDP (GDP is the value of goods and services produced in a year, so this is basically saying 1/10th of everything valuable humans do is tourism-related). That’s why lots of people are very worried about how badly the industry is doing at the moment. It’s reckoned that Covid-19 will reduce international tourism in 2020 by 60 percent. That could go up to 80 percent if lots of places see big second waves of coronavirus.

Governments of countries that usually have a lot of tourism are scrambling to find ways to lure back some of the usual beach bums and culture vultures. One solution several have settled on is paying people to visit. Cyprus says it’ll pay for any costs tourists incur if they catch Covid there. Japan is subsiding up to half the price of things like hotels and travel agents. Italy, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are giving away vouchers to international and domestic holidaymakers.

One big criticism of these sorts of schemes is that it’s giving away taxpayer money to (mainly) foreigners instead of spending it directly on local people who have taken a financial hit because of the pandemic. It doesn’t help that tourists (in general, but especially right now) are more likely than average to be doing financially okay. After all, they have money to spend on leisure activities rather than basic survival stuff, and they’re willing to take on some of the financial risks than come with travelling right now (such as having flights abruptly cancelled or suddenly having to quarantine).

There’s also plenty of people who don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to travel around more during a time when they could have a sometimes-deadly disease in tow.

Read our explainer on: what governments spend their money on.

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