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Some Thoughts on Tourism from Dr James Mabey about Covid-19

May 26, 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19), Headline News No Comments Email Email

As tourism is slowly opening up  some places faster than the others. We have seen new hygiene standards, social-distancing, and body temperature checks being implemented across the board. Today, we asked an industry thought leader Dr James Mabey, MD Asia & Middle East and Chief International Business Officer at Standard International about strategies, lesson learned, and permanent changes he sees for the industry

What strategies are you planning to implement in the short-term to stimulate demand?

The question in the short term is less about demand then it is about responsibility and artificial barriers. People want to travel now, as long as the experience can safeguard safety. The first issue is they cannot travel because countries are shut down and transportation as been stopped. The second issue is, as responsible global citizens should we even facilitate people’s desire to travel at this time? We need the property mechanisms in place before people can move again in large numbers. Those mechanisms include reliable testing, reliable sanitation in the travel process, among others.

Despite the currently negative outlook, have you been able to identify areas of positive change that might be facilitated by the sudden change to the industry? Are there any particular lessons to be learnt from the COVID-19 crisis?

There are some positive things happening. As an industry we have always been slow to adapt. This is forcing us to think differently. This is forcing us out of silos. Our aversion to IT immersion is being choked out of us. IT is one of key solutions in this difficult time, and now we have no choice but to adapt or perish.

Of course there are other benefits that will arise for specific segments in our industry. Chaos will always drive some to lose, and others to win. There will be winners born of this crisis. Specifically those segments that can adapt, that can ensure safety and still meet the needs to travel. Those segments that can capitalise on the cash crisis that many groups are being forced into. There will be general shifts in power and market share between companies and segments depending on their ability to adapt, slow cash burn, and ability to time and execute proper re-entry into the market.

Do you think there will be a change in focus from long-haul to short-haul and domestic travel in the long-term? If so, what will this mean for your organisation?

The change will be based, to a large extent, on the time it takes to adapt to varying levels of complexity in travel. Short-haul and/or domestic travel is less complex, ergo easier to manage in terms of safeguarding the process. Staying ahead of the curve on corralling the complexity needs to be the focus.

Business travel has long been an important pillar of the tourism industry. With many organisations worldwide switching to remote working, do you foresee a permanent change in the business segment?

Yes, the business segment will be one that takes a big hit on this. Again, this is forcing the world to use IT more effectively. IT solutions to remote meetings are developing rapidly. Video conferences are still not as effective as face to face meetings. But the time and money saved is already making the loss of effectiveness nearly negligible in most cases. Companies will use this reduction in business travel to set new policies restricting business travel to save costs moving forward.

Looking five years ahead, what is your most optimistic view of how things will have changed for the tourism industry worldwide?

I’m very optimistic on the mid and long term. IT will continue to develop that keeps us safer. Travel will become more simplified in the long run because of this (I know it doesn’t seem like that now, but it will). Travel will be available to more people around the world and the industry will move on in a better more efficient iteration. Change is the only constant. The current crisis will become another learning moment that we will grow from and emerge stronger from the experiences.

Dr James Mabey is a global hotelier with experience in developing and maximizing business performances.

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