The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had a significant negative impact on many industries, tourism being among the most severely impacted. To recover from the crisis speedily, a responsive mode of governance that can draw on different stakeholders’ efforts is required. Through qualitative interviews with key informants from major associations and government offices related to tourism, this study examines how Macao adopted public-private partnership governance to aid the recovery of its tourism industry. Specifically, the study investigates the roles of government and the crisis leader in post-COVID tourism recovery, the changes in consumer markets, and collaborative efforts of tourism business sectors and destination marketing organizations. This study contributes to deciphering how public-private partnerships can help tourism recovery, as well as the importance of crisis leadership in the process. The study also provides suggestions for industry partners regarding how they can act and respond to crises more effectively.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 12 March 2020 has brought significant social, economic, and environmental costs globally. Among all industries, the tourism industry is one of the most severely impacted. As the pandemic spread, many countries and cities closed their borders. In 2020, international tourism arrivals declined by 93 percent compared with 2019 (Tourism International, 2021). The pandemic also brought significant changes in consumers’ requirements and behaviors, posing great challenges to tourism destination managers and tourism business operators (Sigala, 2020).
To recover from the crisis, an effective and a responsive mode of governance has been required (Neupane, 2021; Vargas, 2020). Governance concerns how societies are governed (Pierre & Peters, 2005). It is generally referred to as “all patterns of power, authority and rule that can secure order, and it is relevant to situations where there is a hierarchical state, where the state depends on others, or where the state plays little or no role” (Wan & Bramwell, 2015, p. 316). Accordingly, an effective and responsive mode of governance is needed to secure order, especially in times of crisis such as COVID-19. Ordinarily, governments tend to rely on traditional bureaucratic command and control mechanisms to govern tourism (Valente et al., 2015). However, conventional types of governance may be outmoded and inadequate in the context of sudden and severe crises such as pandemics. Thus, effective and responsive governance for tourism crisis management requires a government to shift its role from a steerer to that of an enabler in order to facilitate stakeholder collaboration toward common goals (Pierre & Peters, 2005). This is especially crucial for the tourism industry, given its highly interdependent nature (Paraskevas et al., 2013). The urgency and importance of establishing public-private partnerships during the pandemic was recently underscored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in its 2020 “Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism” report (UNWTO, 2020).
5.4. Limitations and future research
The study has several limitations. Firstly, interviews were conducted during the early recovery stage of the pandemic. Strategies and measures may change over time and prompt the formation of other types of partnership. Future research could look at how partnerships evolve in different recovery stages. Secondly, the study only involved the public and private sectors. Other stakeholders such as residents could be included in future research. In addition, this study focuses on the case of Macao. Extending the investigation to a global comparison of tourism recovery schemes could enrich understanding in different contexts. Finally, qualitative research is subjective in nature. Results should be interpreted with caution and are not intended for generalizability.