Public and Private Co-ordination Crucial For Revival Of Travel & Tourism Sector

According to a report, around 197 million people will lose their livelihood working in this sector by the end of this year due to virus outbreak

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The world is still reeling under an unprecedented threat, a global pandemic. A year ago, nobody knew an invisible virus would be so ominous to the human world, claiming millions of lives. The virus not only sucked up all the colors of joy and desisted human life but also crippled the various sectors on which the world ran. One of the sectors that fell on its face was travel and tourism. 

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Fear of catching the virus, multiple restrictions and stringent lockdowns imposed by the government to curb the spread of the virus has only made it difficult for the sector to bounce back and explains why Kamal Vardhan Rao, chairman and managing director of ITDC said, “Every sector is talking about revival, tourism industry is talking about survival.”

Gauging COVID19 Impact & Importance Of Travel Industry

With hotels remaining shut in the first half of the country, many employees lost their way to meet the day's end. According to a new forecast from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC),  nearly 197 million people will lose their livelihood in this sector. Global tourism has also lost $3.8 trillion in the tourism sector and will further aggravate to $5.5 trillion.

The world must come together to assist the sector because it plays a crucial role in lifting the country's economy. Rao mentions that around 10.8 per cent of Australia’s GDP comes from tourism, 6.8 per cent of India’s, 7 per cent of Japan’s, 56.6 per cent of Maldives and 18.8 per cent of Mauritius.

Commenting further on the importance of the tourism industry, Gloria Guevara, president of WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, said in 2019 travel and tourism contributed 10.3 per cent to the global GDP growth. She further highlighted that the sector created 330 mn jobs and stressed that one in four jobs were created from this sector. She suggested that the sector should learn from the past and based on a report, she said that disease and outbreak has taken a minimum of 10 months and maximum of 19.4 months to recover. She said that before COVID-19, the grievous 9/11 where the industry witnessed a U shaped recovery and the financial depression in 2008 where it was a V-shaped recovery.

Rao and Guevara were speaking at the TiE Global Summit.

Plans for recovery

According to Ritesh Agarwal, chief executive officer and founder of popular Oyo Rooms, data science and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a crucial role to increase the check-ins and stressed that personalization of accommodation, loyalty, pricing, content will be critical to be designed at consumer level. Citing an example of Denmark, he stated that small hotels and homestays will be the biggest gainers of the current scenario. He said brand names in this sector will play a pivotal role as independent hotels are trying to get under the ambit of brands. While concluding he said that there is an increasing trend in domestic travel globally. 

Guevara has chalked out four principles that are essential for a road to recovery. According to her there must be an international and public-private sector coordinated approach to effectively re-establish operation. This will help in reopening of borders and removal of travel barriers. There should be an internationally agreed testing framework and tracing programme, replacement of country-wide 14 day quarantine measures with selective quarantines of positive cases, and elimination of travel advisories and bans on non-essential international travel.

“Unfortunately we haven’t seen coordination between private and public players till now,” she added. Second, she suggests enhancing existing traveller journey experience. Third, she asked for adoption of global health, hygiene and safety protocols and common standards and concluded by mentioning there should be government support.

Shedding a ray of hope, she said that  WTTC has plans to recover 100 million jobs in this massively impacted sector which will require 12 commitments from private players and support from the government.

Shoba Mohan of Rare India said entrepreneurs in this sector need to have a millennial mindset as trends suggest millennials travel more. Secondly she asked entrepreneurs to make technology their strengths and said that all should look at a sustainable business model and preserve the world for generations to come.

She said entrepreneurs should look at places which are not looked at by others and support small businesses, as this will create job opportunities for local communities. She asked entrepreneurs to focus on travel insurance marketing training skills. According to her, business’ finance must be looked at carefully and urged entrepreneurs to open independent hotels/stays in small towns.

Government’s role

Commenting on the government’s role in lending hand, Suman Billa of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said it should now kickstart a stimulus and revival package for the tourism sector. He said there needs to be coordinated health gatekeeping and stressed that there is not enough coordination efforts not only at international level but also between various states. He continued to say that the government must ensure there are strong hygiene protocols that are robustly followed starting from airports to the destination locations. He added, “ It is not enough to kill the virus, but kill the anxiety present in the traveller.”

Billa suggested that the government now need to look at controlled and focused restarts in the sector and said that the government needs to choose the destination and resources wisely. The fifth suggestion from him is that the government needs to have a synergy with the debilitating aviation industry. According to him, the tourism industry will recover the fastest as it has a strong bond between aviation and the tourism industry. He also mentioned that the government must look at sustainability policy and try to reduce carbon footprint. He further stressed that there hasn’t been a better time than now for a coordination between private and public sector as the resources from both the sides are limited.

Governments of various countries have come to the rescue of the tourism sector through various incentives. Listing few, Rao said  while Austria has received 100 per cent grants, Australia, Japan and Sweden have disbursed unsecured loans without any securities. He continued that Canada, New Zealand, Hungary, Portugal are providing debt forgiveness, where the government is waiving off all the loans related to the travel sector. Talking about India, he said that under the slogan of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the government has already earmarked $40 billion to help MSME sector.