More than a month would have passed since news of the Covid-19 outbreak took over front pages and prime time. I watched how it unfolded in Asia – general cluelessness at ASEAN Tourism Forum in mid-January gave way to curiosity a week later as the world realised how widespread the then-mysterious flu virus was in China’s Wuhan city
By the time you read this, more than a month would have passed since news of the Covid-19 outbreak took over front pages and prime time.
I watched how it unfolded in Asia – general cluelessness at ASEAN Tourism Forum in mid-January gave way to curiosity a week later as the world realised how widespread the then-mysterious flu virus was in China’s Wuhan city. Later, as the Chinese New Year holidays approached and the Chinese government slapped a stop-sale order on all travel agencies in the country and suspended internal transportation services, travel and tourism players around Asia realised with horror what that meant to their business.
At press time, the industry is still struggling to make sense of the impact of the outbreak. Air capacities are being cut, cruise itineraries are being redrawn, new travel restrictions to Asian hot zones are emerging, tradeshows serving various industries are being postponed or cancelled. On top of all that, projections are being churned out every other day by research houses to warn us how the business could tumble further.
With all that you are hearing and reading, are you getting Covid-19 fatigue yet? Because I am.
As a journalist, God forbid I should ever feel exhausted over a hot issue that I need to track and report on. But as a human being, the headlines and projections are depressing, and the continued spread of fake and sensational news is frustrating. A lot of the content put out for our consumption encourages fear and unnecessary curtailing of travel and meetings.
The travel and tourism industry is often the first to suffer fallouts from negative events around the world, and when this industry falters it brings others like retail, F&B, and transportation down with it.
In Singapore where I reside, the local health authorities’ sharp efficiencies in identifying and tracing potential Covid-19 carriers have earned the city-state the unwanted honour of boasting one of the highest infection rates outside of China. Worried travellers have chosen to keep away, and multiple travel advisories have been posted against Singapore.
Many shops and restaurants have shortened their daily operating hours in response to poor patronage. The other day, an elderly taxi driver told me I was his third customer all morning; it was 10.00 then and he had started his shift at 06.00.
Fortunately, as a journalist and an editor, I can choose how TTG titles contribute to the conversation around Covid-19. While I cannot naively ignore industry developments as they occur, I can choose to balance the coverage with stories of resilience and recovery, and of organisations that provide support for their staff, vendors and others in the external community during these difficult times.
As the saying goes, life must go on. I will continue to meet and speak with any industry peer who desires the same, even as I pay greater attention to personal hygiene.