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How just a few weeks can change the world! The lightning and mostly exponential spread of the novel coronavirus, rather unromantically known as SARS-COV-2, has almost completely obliterated the worldwide tourism market and, unfortunately for translators in the tourism sector, their particular part of the industry too.
Tourism Translation in the Scary World of COVID-19

The Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The only light at the end of the tunnel is that like other pandemics, this will end. Maybe sooner, maybe later. Tourism will once again flourish, although probably it will never be quite the same again. It also won’t return to having a thoroughly international flavour until a safe and effective vaccine or antiviral medicine reduces the population of the virus or limits its effectiveness. This could be anything up to 18 months from now. Until that time, if nation-states do manage to curtail COVID-19 within their borders sufficiently for people to emerge from their homes and once again start to roam, tourism will have a largely intranational flavour, rather than an international one. It is time for translators who have been engaged in the lucrative tourism translation niche to think about shifting to another niche before they lose their jobs as clients whose businesses have shut down go bankrupt or try some other way to earn a living.

If Tourism Translation is out for now, what’s in?

As a professional translator, you have useful skills. Until international tourism picks up again, there may be other opportunities for your talents, although it might mean learning new vocabulary and new skills. Tourism translation tends to concentrate on marketing skills. Tourism operators are out to explain the attractions they can offer to foreign tourists. Tourism translators have marketing skills, language skills and translation skills. These can be put to good use in any marketing environment in which goods are marketed and sold online or through traditional freight routes. International trade may have taken a hit but by far and away much smaller that the movement of people. Goods will be still shipped around the world. Businesses will need translators to help them do that. Websites will still need translating into the most common languages of target markets.

Translators have an Edge when it comes to their Acquired Skills

One certainty in these uncertain times is that the Internet and online working is going to be an essential component of life for the next few months, and who knows, years. Many professional translators work from home or have a mobile ‘office.’ Even those who work ‘in-house’ in a bricks and mortar building can easily just as well work from home, even when everyone around them is in a lockdown situation. Translation documents and whole projects can easily be uploaded and downloaded through the Internet and videoconferencing or just using the phone or WhatsApp can be used as before to communicate with your boss or a client.
The subject of all that online translation work may not be about selling tourism and travel opportunities, but it might be about selling goods or apps.
There are opportunities too for translating entertainment: films, videos, Netflix, songs, poetry and fiction. The current outlook is for millions of people around the world looking for something, anything to keep them amused, especially if they are stuck indoors for a very long time. There may very well be a surge in interest in foreign language entertainment translated into a language that can be understood.

Maybe it’s time to get into something Quite different?

Translators are a versatile bunch but do tend to be quite specialized. With prospects for tourism near nadir for the foreseeable future, at least if it involves international travel, it may be time to start getting into a totally different branch of translation. The virus pandemic might have led to a surge in international communication amongst the medical profession. Scientific opinions about how to combat COVID-19 are being shared around the world and that means business for translators.
If you have ever had anything of a scientific background then this might be a suitable route for you as a new translation niche. Scientific and medical papers, online medical conferences, vaccine and antiviral developments all need to be communicated globally. There are other needs, too. Instructions ad information about measures that a government is taking to combat the disease and its transmission need to be communicated to the public. In so many countries now this public is multilingual. Just take a look at all the fresh links on Australian government health department websites about the coronavirus. There are usually anywhere from 8 to 10 languages that are translated.
Tourism translation may have taken a knock, like the whole of the international tourism industry, but it will return at some point. Translators who are despondent about their prospects of getting work need to be inventive and ready to learn new skills.