The Covid-19 global pandemic has underlined the vital role travel and tourism play in the world economy, a distinguished panel from all corners of the globe have concluded.
The Future of Travel & Tourism: Financial Strategies for the Recovery was the second virtual conference organised by the International Tourism & Investment Conference (ITIC), and the first organised in partnership with WTM London, which used the event to re-emphasise its plan to welcome the world at its flagship three-day show in November at ExCel London.
ITIC’s ambitious five-hour video conference programme attracted 1,250 viewers from 103 countries who watched representatives from the world of government, industry, finance, hotels, airlines, tourism boards and global associations live on YouTube or Facebook.
WTM London Senior Exhibition Director Simon Press joined the event’s introductory session, saying the global event is more valid than ever and pledged that its November 2-4 event would be about getting back to business.
“WTM will continue to pay a pivotal role,” he said.
Dr Taleb Rifai, Chairman ITIC and former Secretary-General UNWTO, told The Future of Travel & Tourism: Financial Strategies for the Recovery’s opening session: “Opportunity comes from all crisis and today is an opportunity to consider what the new world looks like. Investment is very important and we have not realised how important. Psychologically the effect of investment is important and you can not underestimate its impact and sign of confidence.”
Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of WTTC, said she hopes Covid-19 will lead to governments working together and learning from each other.
She said: “Something like 9/11 took years to recover because each country worked in silos, with their own restriction – now 18 years later, protocols remain different. At some airports, do I take my shoes off or not?”
“Protocols for travel need to be the same, all hotels have to be the same."
“What’s important is a coordinated approach between the private sector and governments.”
Guevara said 80 countries have already agreed to the ‘Safe Stamp’ introduced by the WTTC so travellers will know and understand safety procedures.
She also said there was no better time to invest, because recovery will definitely happen and “when it recovers, it will grow fast,” she said.
Nicolas Mayer, PWC Industry Leader Hospitality and Tourism EMEA and Managing Partner Global Centre of Excellence Tourism & Hospitality, said the pandemic was worse than any previous crisis as it had hit both the value chain and demand.
“Demand will come back very strongly, there is no reduction in the desire for travel and no evidence of a drop,” he told the summit. “Finance needs to help companies ramp up to survive the valley of death when they reopen. The valley of death is the time they must survive when there’s a need to see cash out and the wait for cash to come in. In the hotel business this can be up to 150 days.”
Destination delegates included Majd Mohammad Shweikeh, Minister Tourism and Antiquities, Jordan, who told the conference: “Initially all the tourism sector was in panic. But now we are having meetings to ensure survival and we will focus on niche tourism."
“We have green zones in the south, unaffected by the virus," and also agreed with moderator Datar that somewhere like Petra, which is normally crowded, will have to change the way it operates.
“But we will enhance the infrastructure and revise and reshape the journey for the customer. That means a focus on health: hygiene, social distancing and masks.”
Emirates Airlines Vice President-Industry Change Rob Broere, who is also Chairman, IATA – Travel Standards Board, said: “Our programme is in place for the health and safety of staff and passengers in co-operation with the WTTC."
“We disinfect the aircraft every journey but we still provide gloves, masks and wipes to travellers. We have screens at check-in desks, waiting passengers can use only one in every three seats and hand baggage must be small to allow speedy boarding.”
Like many delegates, Broere expressed his strong opposition to quarantine. “It makes no sense. It will kill the business,” he said.
“Consider a flight between Dubai and New Zealand. If there is no infection there is no point in imposing 14-day quarantine.”
Gerald Lawless, WTTC Ambassador, Director ITIC & Advisory Board Member Dubai Expo 2020, took up the case for sustainable travel and tourism to be part of the solution.
“We have to convince the environmentalist that our industry does so much good for developing countries and we must understand the threats of climate change,” said Lawless.
“Aviation gets a bad press but creates less than 3 per cent of the pollution.
“Hotel groups did so well to get rid of single use plastics and Covid has brought them back.”
Margaux Constantin, Partner at McKinsey Company, which has looked at travellers’ intentions and travel searches online, warned it may take until 2026 for a recovery.
She said travellers will spend money as soon as they are able this year, because they have the money, but as the recession bites in, 2021 bookings will fall off and may not bounce back for five years.
Former UNWTO Secretary-General Dr Rifai concluded: “Things will get worse before they get better, but governments recognise travel and tourism is very important."
“Countries have been left on their own to make bilateral agreements towards a new world order."
“Domestic tourism keeps the sector open preserving jobs and I believe that by travelling within their country, they will love it more. I believe a country should be enjoyed by its people first.”
Ibrahim Ayoub, Group CEO & MD of ITIC and organiser of this virtual summit added: “The primary goal of this conference was to bring together tourism ministers, health expert, tourism leaders and operators and investors in an open dialogue, under one roof to discuss and consider financial solutions and preparedness to reopen the tourism industry for a better future.”
He thanked everyone for their participation and stated: “We are continuing this conversation for sustainable investment in the travel and tourism industry post Covid-19 during the WTM week in November."
Other findings included:
• No-one supported quarantines. Most supported improved testing.
• Countries that have isolated themselves since the pandemic broke now need to co-operate.
• Support differed over the idea of bubbles or corridors between nations.
• Travel protocol and hygiene standards need to be the same worldwide.
• Sustainability can be part of the post-pandemic sector. - TradeArabia News Service