I believe that the travel industry will spring back earlier than the tourism industry.
The reason I believe this is because travel decisions are largely reliant on the NEED to travel, whereas the latter's decisions are on WISH to tour.
Yes, travel will pick up speed, but my bet is more on roadways, than by airways or railways. Most hotel and travel operators are getting an increasing number of calls from their earlier / regular clients who are concerned about the mandatory restrictions imposed by the law of the land, such as inter-state rules, flight and train bans, and also to seek clarifications on permits and quarantines.
In my opinion, an interactive state portal that provides real-time answers to queries on ease of travel restrictions and mandatory procedures to protect oneself and prevent contaminating others is the desperate need of the day. One understands that decisions on both travel and tourism shall be mostly preceded by an exhaustive inquiry through known agencies, and from other reliable sources.
What better way that an official response that assuages concerns and at the same time nudges the public to shed their anxiety and take abundant precautions, rather than allow rumourmongers have a field day.
Further, handheld control of adaptable technology shall be game changers of the future. It is time for AI minute-to-minute enroute guidance that monitors one’s travel and provides search engine connected tools to navigate through non-contaminated areas while giving deep insights on where to find services or necessary help such as midway toilets, chemist stores, hygienic restaurants, etc. Hotel and resort owners need to reinvent themselves or will slowly perish in the long-haul situation that they are presented with.
A series of brainstorming with their teams, networked friends in the industry, independant consultants, well-wishers, relatives, and family is the need of the hour. The pandemic has forced all of us to collaborate and not think independent of each other. My strong belief is that a way forward will emerge to navigate through the crisis.
Rather than attritioning staff, a diametrically different thought paradigm needs to be adopted. For example, instead of laying off assistant cooks or waiters, restaurant owners should train them to go out and deliver in an enlarging ripple-effect area around their business location. Similarly, all HODs and non-operations staff of hotels should buckle down and get upskilled on engagement through social media and bring their collective resources to reach out in sending out a clear message – we are open for business, do get awesome never-before and never-again deals on pre-booking and easy payment mechanisms.
This has been heard in many circles before, but the present reality has driven home the concept of an interconnected and shrinking world. I have had friends from several countries calling me and praising India’s efforts in fighting back with vigour and steam in pushing back from what could have been a dreadful situation.
Several friends are asking post January travel inputs to states that have shown peerless records of Covid19 control – Kerala, Goa, Orissa and the North-eastern sister states, amongst others.
Without a shred of doubt, short trip road travel to safe resorts that are close to nature are the most likely beneficiaries of group movement of families and small groups. Those who broadcast a detailed campaign of efforts to ensure a guaranteed safety (doctor-on-call, contactless dining, hyper-sterilised housekeeping services, etc.) will get the early bird’s worm. Rented self-driven people-mover passenger car sales are bound to shoot up.
AS 2021 ENDS, TOURISM LOOKS FORWARD WITH DETERMINATION
We are almost at the end of what has been the most challenging year in the history of tourism.
Almost overnight, the pandemic brought global tourism to a complete standstill.
Millions of people missed chances to explore different places and embrace different cultures and customs. And the world lost out on opportunities for tourism to create jobs, support businesses, kick-start development, and to protect and preserve the very things we leave our homes to see.
However, in the face of such a downturn, tourism ends the year more united and determined than ever.
The UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee, created in March soon after the pandemic was declared, recently met for a final time in 2020.
This unique cross-sector platform coordinates international efforts and has proven to be crucial in guiding our response to COVID-19 and informing the measures and tools for mitigating its impact on jobs and businesses.
Notwithstanding new and ongoing developments of the pandemic, the Committee is geared towards accelerating the restart of tourism, always factoring in the most recent situation of global health.
Harmonized, consistent travel protocols are essential for restoring confidence in international travel and getting tourism moving again. UNWTO will maintain the momentum we gained in 2020 into the new year.
Over recent months, we have made political and business leaders listen and make tourism a part of their plans. We have emphasized the relevance of tourism to almost every part of our societies, most recently amplified through our partnership with CNN and reinforced through high-level, in-person visits to Member States including Portugal, Tunisia, Namibia, Brazil, Uruguay, Egypt, Italy, France, Belgium and Saudi Arabia.
This joined-up approach contributed to ensuring tourism has been given record levels of financial support and political goodwill and rewarded with public recognition. The European Commission has led the way in turning encouraging words into firm actions, most notably with its unprecedented economic support for tourism at this crucial time.
Through in-person visits to leaders in the Americas, Africa and Europe, and through welcoming the Vice President of the European Commission, to address the most recent meeting of the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, we now call on governments to do more. To show that safe international travel is not only possible but, given the social and economic benefits that only tourism can deliver, essential too.
Without doubt, news of a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus gives us reason for cautious optimism. However, the restart of tourism – and the many millions of people who depend on it – cannot wait for mass vaccinations to become a reality.
It is time now to rethink quarantine rules for tourists. To embrace innovation and new solutions for testing travellers before or after their journeys. Alongside this, restrictions on travel must be eased or lifted in a responsible and coordinated manner as soon as it is safe and feasible.
The important steps undertaken to ensure better coordination and refusing to stand still, are the precursors to prepare for the new year. 2022 could be a critical year for the restart of tourism, but only if we continue along this path.
The foundations are there for this to be a turning point. It is a moment for directing our sector towards greater sustainability and inclusivity and realizing its massive potential to deliver lasting development and change for all. We cannot waste this chance.
Now, as we pause and reflect, I send you my best wishes from CHENNAI.
The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.