We estimate a variety of exchange rate elasticities of international tourism. We show that, in addition to the bilateral exchange rate between the tourism origin and destination countries, the exchange rate vis-à-vis the US dollar is also an important driver of tourism flows and pricing. The effect of US dollar pricing is stronger for tourism destination countries with higher dollar borrowing, indicating a complementarity between dominant currency pricing and financing. Country-specific dominant currencies (CSDCs) play only a minor role for the average country, but are important for tourism-dependent countries and those with a high concentration of tourists. The importance of the dollar exchange rate represents a strong piece of evidence of dominant currency pricing (DCP) in the international trade of services and suggests that the benefits of exchange rate flexibility for tourism-dependent countries may be weaker than previously thought.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Fiji has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic—with infection rates at one point among the highest in the world. Despite swift action by the government to close borders, protect the population, and mitigate the worst economic effects, the economic contraction was the worst in Fiji’s history. The crisis has come at a heavy social cost, including large-scale layoffs, surging unemployment, and high non-performing loans. Multilateral and bilateral support has been critical in helping Fiji weather the worst of the crisis and has facilitated a strong government response—including rapid acceleration of the government vaccination program underpinning Fiji’s reopening to international tourism.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a collapse in international tourism, severely impacting the tourism-dependent economies in the Asia & Pacific region. Once countries start reopening, tourism diversion effects could accelerate the recovery in countries that establish themselves as more attractive travel destinations than competitors. We investigate the impact of previous shocks in tourism competitor countries on visitor inflows, with a particular focus on tourism-dependent Pacific Island Countries (PICs). We find that PICs were generally resilient to external shocks and benefitted from diversion effects for certain types of shocks. For example, the share of departures from Australia to PICs increased by 12 percent during the SARS outbreak. We then derive policy implications for the post-COVID-19 revival of inbound tourism to PICs and lessons for the future.
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur
This paper proposes an easy-to-follow approach to track merchandise trade using vessel data and applies it to Pacific island countries. Pacific islands rely heavily on imports and maritime transport for trade. They are also highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters that pose risks to ports and supply chains. Using satellite-based vessel tracking data from the UN Global Platform, we construct daily indicators of port and trade activity for Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses to shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
Vybhavi Balasundharam, Ms. Leni Hunter, Iulai Lavea, and Mr. Paul G Seeds
Pacific island countries (PICs) rely on national airlines for connectivity, trade, and tourism. These airlines are being struck hard by COVID-19. Losses will weigh on public sector balance sheets and pose risks to economic recovery. With a backdrop of tight fiscal space and increasing government debt, losses in airlines are adding to fiscal risks in some PICs. This paper discusses tools to evaluate and manage the fiscal risks from national airlines in the Pacific. We present a snapshot of the current state of Public Financial Management (PFM) practices in PICs and detail the best practices. This exercise would illustrate the areas in which PICs have scope to improve their risk management with regard to national airlines. We then discuss the use of diagnostic tools and capacity development to enhance monitoring and risk management. Greater transparency and accountability in the airlines, combined with rigorous oversight, would be the first step towards improved financial management of national airlines.