ISLAMABAD: Pakistan had announced COVID-19 economic stimulus packages valued at $5 billion however there was no aviation-specific benefits, where most jobs were at risk among the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries.
This has been stated in a report “the impact of Covid-19 on CAREC aviation and tourism” released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
According to the report, estimated airline traffic reduction for CAREC in 2020 is 40 million passengers, estimated airport traffic reduction for CAREC in 2020 is 46 million passengers, estimated passenger revenue impact for CAREC in 2020 is $7 billion, estimated travel and tourism jobs in CAREC that are at risk in 2020 (IATA methodology) is one million jobs, estimated reduction in international visitor spend for CAREC in 2020 is $11 billion, estimated reduction in travel and tourism GDP contribution for CAREC in 2020 is $27 billion, estimated reduction in visitor numbers for CAREC in 2020 is 33 million visitors, estimated reduction in visitor arrivals by air for CAREC in 2020 is 5.5 million visitors, and estimated required financial support for CAREC airlines is $2 billion.
These figures are for the 10 CAREC countries combined: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Xinjiang Uygur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are also part of CAREC but the PRC is excluded in all data and analysis compiled as part of this study.
According to the report, the largest aviation market in CAREC is Pakistan, which accounts for a third of all passenger traffic in CAREC.
Pakistan is by far the most-populated CAREC country, although the size of Pakistan’s air transport sector is very small given its large population (over 200 million).
Pakistan and Kazakhstan are the only CAREC countries with sizable domestic air transport markets.
Combined, they account for nearly three-quarters of all domestic passenger traffic in CAREC.
Kazakhstan and Pakistan have the largest domestic markets and therefore are proportionately less impacted. Pakistan is by far the largest market, accounting for 38 percent of all CAREC origin and destination traffic.
In April, the IATA projected a 50 percent decline in origin and destination passenger traffic, including a 52 percent decline for Pakistan, resulting in a decline for Pakistan of 9.87 million fewer origin and destination passengers.
The IATA also projected a $1.83 billion decline in passenger revenues for Pakistan.
The IATA has not updated these figures and did not include any other CAREC country in its breakdown by country.
The IATA also stated in April that 259,400 jobs in Pakistan are at risk as a result of the expected decline in passenger traffic. The IATA has not provided jobs at risk projections for other CAREC countries but using the IATA methodology, this study estimates that one million travel and tourism jobs are at risk in CAREC.
This study estimates that 1.5 million jobs of the 65.5 million global jobs are in CAREC countries and one million are at risk.
Pakistan has the most jobs at risk, followed by Georgia.
Pakistan and some other CAREC countries have a disproportionately high level of airline and aviation employees given the size of their air transport markets due to inefficiencies. Georgia has the highest international visitor spending but the third-highest overall travel and tourism spending after Pakistan and Kazakhstan.
This is due to Georgia’s relatively small domestic tourism market compared to the much larger overall countries of Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Pakistan and Tajikistan also have not yet reported visitor arrival data for 2019.
These are smaller markets, reporting 3.2 million and one million visitor arrivals, respectively, in 2018.
It further stated that Pakistan has a large aviation market but of the 3.2 million visitors for 2018, only 17,000 arrived on tourist visa.
Pakistan has more significant business visitor volumes that arrive by air but international flights in Pakistan cater mainly to the outbound segment, particularly Pakistanis heading overseas for work.
Pakistan has the largest domestic tourism market in the CAREC with around 50 million domestic trips per annum. This is not surprising given Pakistan’s large population and geographic size and relatively low volume of outbound international travelers.
Based on 2019 WTTC data, 93 percent of Pakistan’s travel and tourism spending was on domestic travel.
Aviation will also benefit somewhat from growth in domestic tourism, particularly in the main domestic markets of Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
Pakistan has the potential to become a large source market for several CAREC countries.
Pakistan is by far the most populated CAREC country but there are only around 60,000 Pakistani visitors per annum to all other CAREC countries combined (excluding the PRC).
Almost all CAREC countries still require visas for Pakistan residents.
Pakistan is a large potential source market for other CAREC countries.
Green lanes will help but if they are not accompanied with a visa-free travel policy, the impact will be muted and there will likely not be sufficient demand to support direct flights. There are particularly new route opportunities from Pakistan, which prior to the pandemic had only two routes to other CAREC countries.
Azerbaijan and Pakistan particularly have large cargo markets. Pakistan reported handling 330,350 tonnes of air cargo in the fiscal year ending June 2019, while Azerbaijan handled 206,400 tonnes in calendar 2019.
The two biggest examples of Covid-19 economic stimulus packages in CAREC are Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021