Hey, who turned on the lights?: Defeating darkness with creativity

Travel and tourism players may be living in one of their darkest times in modern history, but these are also days of bright ideas that could forever change how people travel and appreciate destinations.

Singapore has just stepped back into partial lockdown this month due to new infection clusters and unlinked Covid-19 cases in the community. The current state also means yet another disruption to the highly-anticipated Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble, which was supposed to materialise on May 26. At press time, both governments have agreed to revisit the arrangement on or before June 13, when Singapore’s Phase 2 Heightened Alert restrictions end.

In yet another blow for Singapore, who has taken pride in resuming many in-person business events safely since October 2020, the World Economic Forum decided on May 17 to cancel its special annual meeting in the city state. The high-profile meeting was scheduled for August this year, following postponements from mid-May to late-May and then to August because of pandemic uncertainties.

Disruptive as these developments may be to travel and tourism recovery, most of us know that such evolving conditions are something we have to take in our stride. We have a full year and more to observe how the virus impacts countries and communities, and we know that even the best in Covid-19 containment is not immune to sudden infection surges.

Maldives, the envy of many destination marketers for being able to safely resume international tourism in July 2020 when most international borders were still shut, has been dealing with a surge in cases since early May. Maldives has now withdrawn her welcome to travellers originating from high-risk countries and regions.

Taiwan, yet another success story in Covid-19 containment, is battling a growing number of local infections.

India, Malaysia and Thailand are still trying to quell troubling new waves.

Hopes of 2021 being better than 2020 are dashed! Or not. It depends on how we want to remember this crisis. This is either a time of darkness or a time of creative brilliance. I will gladly go with the latter. There are plenty of creative survival examples here in Asia.

We have seen hotels, resorts and serviced apartments do well with workation, staycation, long-stay and themed stay packages, some built for beloved pets and others for home owners waiting out home renovations. Some hotels have successfully turned to delivering gourmet delights to customers stuck at home, while others have become skilled destination story-tellers.

NTOs, tourist attractions and tour operators have devised out-of-the-box ideas to engage their customers and keep the travel dream alive, such as through virtual reality tours and online interactions with in-destination artisans, chefs, oenophiles, cave explorers, and many other subject matter experts that travellers would love to meet on their trips but might not always have the chance to do so.

Innovative partnerships with non-hospitality businesses have been forged to the benefit of travellers and guests.

We may be living in one of our darkest times in modern history, but these are also days of bright ideas that could forever change how we travel and appreciate destinations.

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