Sense and sensibility

Learning to live with C-19 is key to stable recovery

Days are starting to look brighter across the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, with more countries resuming economic activities and campaigning for a return of domestic travel.

More industry players are also restarting their engines and announcing fresh developments. Our newsdesk is once again welcoming announcements on new hotel openings and new signings, new tourism products in the marketplace, flights being resumed; and new partnerships being forged to bring companies and the industry forward.

However, the pandemic is still forcing governments into a dreaded cha-cha, where one step forward in returning to normalcy is followed by more steps back because of resurgence in community infections.

Sri Lanka has delayed the August 1 reopening of her international airport indefinitely due to new community cases. Hong Kong has held back the launch of her Spend-to-Redeem Free Local Tours programme for residents due to a spike in local infections.

Australia, which was among the few countries in the region to cope so well with the pandemic and was able to progress far into her reopening plans, is now fighting an outbreak in Melbourne and Sydney.

These days, conversations with industry peers lead us to ask: What will it take for travel and tourism to recover, without multiple frustrating stops and starts?
The easy answer is: a vaccine!

But our reality is a vaccine that is still out of reach.

Complete suppression of economic activities cannot be our solution while we wait for a reliable – and sufficiently lasting – cure to be accessible.

We have to restart. Many tourism and hospitality players are returning to business the right way, with limited capacity and advanced bookings to ensure safe distancing and tracing needs; with contactless technology and altered service processes to minimise risk of transmissions; with enhanced and audited sanitisation and disinfection measures that satisfy government’s requirements.

Equally critical for the sustainable success of our battle against the pandemic is improved public consciousness because the best of health and safety protocols adopted by organisations and governments are useless when people are complacent, careless and ready to leap back into crowds.

At the same time, paranoia over every single, new infection is also detrimental. We saw how a single reported infection in Thailand’s Rayong province in July resulted in domestic travellers retreating and causing hotels bookings there as well as in neighbouring Koh Samet to plunge 80-100 per cent.

The world has to be practical and learn to live sensibly with Covid-19. Only with this can the tourism and hospitality industry begin to recover in a more stable manner.

Karen Yue is group editor of TTG Asia Media. She sets the editorial direction for the company’s stable of travel trade titles and platforms, and produces content for them as well.

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