Decisive action is needed

Emirates is the first airline to conduct rapid on-site COVID-19 tests

As one of the world’s most labour-intensive sectors, supporting 330 million jobs worldwide and one in four new jobs created on the planet in 2019, tourism must be at the heart of global response and recovery efforts.

Latest research from WTTC shows the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a loss of up to $2.1 trillion in travel & tourism GDP to the world economy.

Late last month, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) hosted a virtual meeting with His Excellency, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, and leaders from across the tourism industry. The roundtable was chaired by WTTC president and CEO, Gloria Guevara, and Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism and Chairperson ahead of this year’s G20 Tourism Track. 

Ahmed Al Khateeb rightly said: “The challenge ahead lies in two phases, first in weathering the impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives and businesses, and second in rebuilding from it.

“As we work together to outline solutions for the private sector, we look forward to building a collective response for all types of businesses involved – from global conglomerates to the many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that help make tourism a thriving and innovative industry.

“Guaranteeing the livelihoods of businesses and workers in the travel and tourism sector will ensure a healthy recovery. Together we will pave the way for a strong and sustainable ecosystem for the future.”

On the other side of the coin, more than a third of travellers surveyed feel that their governments need to impose stricter travel restrictions, this according to Phocuswright’s recently released research called Traveler Sentiment in the Age of COVID-19.

Phocuswright surveyed travellers from the US, the UK, France and Germany to understand traveller sentiment during the coronavirus pandemic and early indicators on travel intent post-pandemic. The survey included questions about how travellers’ plans have been impacted, their satisfaction with companies when changing their travel plans, considerations for future travel, and more.

A significant drop in infection rates and government advisories were the top indicators for French, German, US and UK travellers to travel again. Optimism about travelling seems directly proportional to the passage of time, with these four key outbound markets suggesting September as a likely month for travel to resume.

When it comes to what planned travellers choose to do with their plans, most commonly, those who planned on traveling for leisure between the end of March and June 30 have chosen to postpone their trips. Cancelling was the next common option. The one exception was the German market where travellers prefer cancelling over postponing.

UK and US travellers unanimously voted falling ill at their destination as their greatest fear, while Germans feared being quarantined in their host country or upon return to Germany as their biggest detractor. French travellers, on the other hand, were nervous about falling ill in transit.

When the travel and tourism sector picks again, however, it will be interesting to see which destinations, hotels, travel agencies and airlines catch the attention – and retain the loyalty – of consumers.

Until then, enjoy the ‘couch surfing’ while it lasts.