Bits and BobsIt's time for governments to offer greater clarity on travel reopening guidelines as anguish grows in a sector hammered by Covid-19.

Tourism reopening – where's the plan?

The lack of certainty thus far has led to significant mental and financial stress in the travel industry.
The lack of certainty thus far has led to significant mental and financial stress in the travel industry. Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s apparent that travel consumers the world over are still keen to travel post Covid-19 – only if there are clear guidelines on how and when that is possible. 

Barring the widespread impacts this unprecedented crisis has had on personal wealth, there still exists a strong pent-up demand for travel, and this intention is borne out by many travel consumer sentiments surveys in the last couple of weeks.

But as many surveys and findings can be released about travel intentions remaining high, if there is no certainty about if, when and how governments are intending to reopen their borders to international tourism, no amount of pent-up travel will be able to translate interest into actual bookings.

After an initial hopeful upturn in May and June as many countries in Asia Pacific restart their domestic tourism sectors, the recovery sentiments for travel appear to have hit a bump once again. With the summer largely gone but Covid-19 still raging on, it is clear that the recovery path for travel will be a protracted and jagged one. Earlier expectations that any recovery of international travel will come by winter are beginning to falter too.

Faced with the challenge of balancing public health risks versus economic benefits from international tourism, governments need to take a clear stand and offer clarity in their communications around if, when, to whom and under what kind of scheme is the country going to open international borders to – or not at all until a vaccine is in place.

The Singapore Tourism Board, in a recent Tourism Recovery Dialogue conducted with the local travel industry, has given a very candid assessment that mass international tourism is unlikely to take place within 2020 and 1Q 2021 is the earliest that could possibly happen.

It’s not a rosy or feel-good message, but one that is crucial to be delivered to the embattled travel industry as the global health crisis drags on without a definite end point in sight.

Clarity, even if it paints a negative picture, will enable the travel industry to assess the business and take better stock of the situation better. Otherwise, false optimism during such trying times could cause further chaos and confusion to a sector that has already been brought to its knees.

The lack of certainty thus far has led to significant mental havoc in the travel industry, which potentially could have equally disastrous effects on the sector as much as the economic devastation.

What travel employers and workers need at this stage, more than half a year into the crippling crisis, is certainty and honest information so that companies which have survived the crisis thus far can strategise and plan ahead: whether domestic market might be sufficient for now to keep businesses alive, and when it would make sense to reopen certain assets or simply hibernate until the market conditions turn much more favourable.

Without governments spelling out their clear intentions and plans, the beleaguered travel sector will continue to grope in the dark. Such uncertainty could also mean the difference between survival or collapse for many companies.

Honesty, even if it hurts, should come soon. Let’s not make the winter harsher than it already is for travel industry.

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