The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting almost every aspect of daily life, including the very human need to connect to culture and enjoying it with others. With many World Heritage sites closed, our connection to our heritage has been weakened. With concerts, theatre performances, and community cultural practices interrupted or canceled, our connection with each other has been weakened. The fundamental right to access to culture has been curtailed, due to the confinement measures imposed by governments to tackle the health crisis.
Within the cultural sector, the crisis has also starkly exposed the pre-existing vulnerabilities of the sector, including the precarious livelihoods of artists and cultural workers, as well as the tight budgets of many cultural institutions. Cultural professionals report that they are likely to face difficulties mitigating the impact – the culture sector risks being among the first to be impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and not necessarily prioritised in terms of urgent response measures. Long term, this could push many artists out of their jobs and many cultural institutions forced to closed. Around 95% of all museums worldwide have expected long-term closings, only in the USA translates into USD$ 33Milion a day in losses in the whole museum sector, being the ones located in rural communities.
The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that up to 75 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are under immediate threat, equating to a loss of US$2.1trillion GDP in 2020. This is equivalent to an astounding one million jobs being lost every day in the travel & tourism sector and is a worry for many countries. For some countries, tourism and related sectors are equivalent to up to 70% of the national economy. In mid-April, the OECD estimated that spending on “recreation, culture, hotels and restaurants” had declined by 75% in G7 countries. Cultural tourism makes up nearly 40% of world tourism revenues (UNWTO).
The closures of sites that rely heavily on tourism to maintain their budgets could make longer term management of the site and working conditions more precarious. In some instances, it could also negatively impact conservation and research work done at the sites due to looting, unless emergency measures are put in place. Elsewhere at natural sites, including World Heritage properties, there has been an increase in the risk of poaching and illegal deforestation, partly due to the decreased presence of tourists and staff in the natural sites.
The pandemic has further revealed inequalities facing vulnerable groups, in particular women, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, and LGBTI groups, including in access to culture. Access to digital technologies is not even everywhere. According to the Broadband Commission, some 46% of the global population remains offline: the vast majority of these estimated 3.6 billion people are in developing countries. Confinements and curfews have not been equally on all sectors of society as some vulnerable groups don’t have access to digital technologies and therefore, access to culture and entertainment too.
The pandemic has also affected our societies and lifestyles, especially related to people’s relationships with technology, which is what has allowed the world to keep connected. Digital media consumption habits have also changed and in most of the cases increased, experiencing higher increases among younger populations. The forced increase in remote work and studying trend is one of the most notorious changes with only essential workers working on-site at most of the countries during the pandemic. The reduced space for civil society has also had an impact on socio-cultural aspects, as restriction of movement prevents activities that require meeting physically. This is particularly the case for civil society’s social accountability role, as most social accountability tools require engaging local communities to come together to participate in initiatives. This is not possible when social distancing measures are in place. Community meetings, social audits, and group sessions – the mainstays of most social accountability initiatives – are difficult to achieve under strict distancing or quarantine measures. Similarly, demonstrations or protests are hindered by such measures. Many civil society organizations have developed online communication. However, this excludes people that do not have access to digital tools.
Cultural sites, events, museums, artists, actresses and actors
The hard impact of the Covid-19 on the cultural sector is being felt around the world. Threatened cultural industries contribute US$2.250BN to the global economy (3% of GDP) and account for 29.5 million Jobs worldwide. This impact is social, economic and political – it affects the fundamental right of access to culture, the social rights of artists and creative professionals, and the protection of a diversity of cultural expressions. The unfolding crisis risks deepening inequalities and rendering communities vulnerable.
Tourism and tourism related sectors
The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that up to 75 million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are under immediate threat, equating to a loss of US$2.1trillion GDP in 2020
People without access to necessary technologies
For people to be able to participate in society and culture during the crisis, access to technology is becoming increasingly important. Despite this, according to the Broadband Commission, some 46% of the global population remains offline: the vast majority of these estimated 3.6 billion people are in developing countries. Confinements and curfews have not been equally open all sectors of society as some vulnerable groups don’t have access to digital technologies and therefore, access to culture and entertainment too.