On a visit to the Canary Islands a few years ago, I got chatting to a tour guide who told me he’d just been approved for a mortgage. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but looking back, I realise how unusual that was. Jobs in the tourism industry are invariably low paid and seasonal. While it might be possible to keep up the bank payments during peak months, when the sun is shining and the sightseers are spending, it’s a different matter when the weather turns cold or the monsoon arrives and income dries up. Canary Islanders are fortunate. The subtropical Spanish archipelago located off the coast of Africa has a climate that draws tourists throughout the year. Well, most years. I’m writing this article in a cafe on the Greek island of Corfu , where a coronavirus-constrained summer has made the annual challenge of saving enough money to survive six visitor-free winter months more difficult than ever. The lockdown-affected season is drawing to a close but few business owners, let alone their staff, have put aside a stash of cash to see them through until spring 2021 – at the earliest. But at least the Greek government has provided financial assistance for retrenched workers, a scenario that people in many parts of the world can only dream of. On the Indonesian island of Bali , many people have gone back to their roots and are working on family farms until they are able to offer traditional massages, sightseeing tours and shadow puppet shows again. But while subsistence agriculture keeps the Balinese from going hungry, it doesn’t pay school tuition fees or monthly moped instalments. In Nepal , tourism workers have endured three seasons of lost income so far. The first influx of visitors usually arrives in March, and when the monsoon begins, in June, the porters, guides and cooks head to Ladakh, to work for Indian trekking companies, before returning to Nepal for the busy autumn season. Not this year. Cancelled mountaineering expeditions, treks and tours have left an estimated 20,000 Nepalese high and dry. Worse still, the informal nature of their employment means they are not protected by formal social safety nets and few have the luxury of savings to draw on. Many face financial ruin. To rub salt into wounds, the programme of events to celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020 was in full swing when the government was forced to pull the plug (a countrywide lockdown came into effect in March). The ill-fated initiative is now referred to as Didn’t Visit Nepal Year. Porters are also suffering in Tanzania – as are safari guides, drivers and other wildlife park personnel. With adventure travellers opting to sit out this year’s Mount Kilimanjaro climbing season, staff are left with little to do but to deep clean the mountain camps and undergo Covid-19 prevention training in readiness for the resumption of international tourism. There are fears, however, that when the country fully reopens, tourists seeking cut-price deals from trekking agencies desperate for revenue will compromise safety on Africa’s highest peak. For poor old Gambia , Covid-19 is the final straw. Reeling from the 2014 Ebola crisis, despite never registering a single case, the West African holiday honeypot experienced political unrest in 2017 that led to the evacuation of foreigners. Two years later, Thomas Cook , the company responsible for bringing in almost half of Gambia’s tourists, collapsed. So by the time coronavirus struck, there were barely any holidaymakers left to scare away. Some countries have successfully switched their focus from international to domestic tourism but this requires a middle class with disposable income, something Gambia lacks. Fiji ’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, had a point when he said, “Covid-19 is clearly the job-killer of the century”. He added, “You can’t suddenly work from home when you earn your paycheque as a scuba instructor.” But his comments tell only half the story. Figures for tourism-sector job losses are merely the tip of the iceberg as they exclude the invisible army of people who benefit indirectly from one of the world’s biggest industries: the mechanics who repair holiday hire cars, fishermen whose daily catch ends up on restaurant menus and staff at large-scale laundries at which hotel bedding is cleaned, to name a few. In normal times, this auxiliary workforce would use their earnings to pay everyone from tuk-tuk drivers to tea vendors. This year, however, the trickle-down dividend known as the multiplier effect is on life support. An empty hotel requires neither chambermaids nor freshly laundered sheets and a closed restaurant has no need for waiters or a steady supply of seafood. Tour operators without any bookings have little use for planes, pilots, reservation teams or resort reps. Which brings us back to Greece. A coffee shop conversation I was having recently with a holiday rep was interrupted when she received a text from her company saying the Netherlands was adding the Greek islands to its travel blacklist. A follow-up message informed the dumbfounded Dutchwoman she was now unemployed. Since then, her coffee has been on the house. It’s a small gesture but the irony of Greeks – who know a thing or two about economic hardship – helping out a “rich” northern European isn’t lost on the regulars. Blanket anti-travel advisories and quarantine measures can make or break resorts that rely on tourism. Their arbitrary, often ill-informed implementation might explain why certain destinations have been prepared to open their borders to countries with far higher infection risks than their own. Nor would it be surprising to discover that some vacation venues have been less than honest with their Covid-19-related case data to avoid being penalised by faraway governments. But there’s positive news amid all the gloom. Employers in many countries are doing their best to look after loyal staff. In Kenya , for example, some hotels have allowed redundant workers to access health care insurance cover, while Australian residents on Bali have turned their restaurants and cafes into free food banks that feed thousands every day . The holiday hiatus has also given resorts a rare opportunity to pause, take stock and breathe. As well as serving up coffee to the newly unemployed, the owners of my local Corfu cafe have been enjoying a series of summer dinner parties with friends and business “rivals” – something they would never normally have had the time for at the height of the tourist season.