“As for who may survive this crises, only those that understand that we are moving towards a new norm, a new reality, will survive. A new world is in the making – one that is more fair and equitable and, therefore, more sustainable. Everyone has to adjust, and unfortunately the travel industry does not have a history of being the best in adjusting and thinking on an innovative level.
“Let us remember that we were able to put a man on the moon before we were able to put two wheels on a suitcase. That shows how conservative and slow to move our sector has been.
“Airlines have to communicate more confidence and trust in cleanliness and hygiene, and they must have a more flexible booking and cancellation policy. Hotels have to recognize that domestic and regional clients are going to be the first to visit, so national holidays will see better traffic. After that, maybe digital nomads, which would require special long-term deals will fall inline, so special and different deals will have to be offered. Restaurants will also have to cater more to delivery and adjust seating for social distancing and outdoor seating. All this in addition to other changes will have to convey the feeling of cleanliness and proper hygiene.
“The world is also becoming more digital, and we simply have to adapt and make the best use of technology. We have to think outside the box. Tourism must recognize that everything can become digital and virtual, not just meetings and conferences, but also public events like concerts or big gatherings, even gym activities and personal events.
“I had my daughter married via zoom from Dubai for example. I was in Amman, Jordan, with the father of the groom, and she and her husband were in Dubai while the priest was on the other line. We just had to be imaginative and use available technology to think outside the box.
“We must first recognize the changes and admit them, and then we should think imaginatively of the needed changes through technology, sustainability and honest and transparent promotion as explained in previous examples. This will suit the new digital, young, and well-informed consumer.
“In tourism, there can be no competition between neighbors. Usually, what is good for my neighbor is good for me. It is like the principle in a “souk” where all those that sell spices or sell gold are in the same street as one customer brings another.
“In summary, for domestic and regional travel to revive first, there are 3 stages for recovery:
- Keep businesses alive, which requires direct support from governments or soft loans just to ensure businesses have enough time to adjust to the new reality and survive.
- Require the private sector to adjust quickly to the new realities of domestic and regional travelers. Offer them new deals. Then and only then can governments stop having to provide direct support.
- Start international travel with the young digital nomads and offer special travel insurance policies for foreigners, which require special arrangements and packages from the accommodation sector as well as governments in order to support and connect with local insurance providers not only in promotions but through visas and tax issues but for longer stays as well.
“My message at the end is – come together. We can only do this together. No government can do it alone no matter how good the plan may be. We must remember that there are opportunities that come out of every crises – let us not miss this one. Let us remember that, in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ and the word ‘opportunity’ are one in the same.”