Brace yourself, change is coming

Some of the experts attending the TTN virtual roundtable

Our panel of experts has projected the possible rise of low-cost carriers, which may even take market share from legacy carriers in the future, the need for compulsory travel insurance in the region, the rising demand for private jets, the interest in soft adventure tourism and sustainable travel.  

“I think that there’s going to be a significant, permanent change to the way we do things going forward,” said one of our panellists, Tricia Warwick, Director Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA), Visit Britain.

“We are all watching and waiting for the airlines to start functioning again because that will decide what will come first, but most of us realise that domestic travel will come first. People will be a little circumspect before they start looking further afield.”

Matthias Albrecht, Director GCC, Switzerland Tourism, pointed out that sustainable travel would be high on the list of travel trends in the coming years. “It will be travel that takes into consideration nature, people and society. Greta Thunberg is not on the news right now, but the spirit of taking care of nature and of our planet will remain an important part of our DNA. In post Covid-19 times, this will be communicated even more.”

More than four million Covid-19 cases have been diagnosed globally, but the island nation of Taiwan has continued to report no new Covid-19 cases for weeks, leaving the total number of diagnosed cases at 440 as of May 18. Dr Trust Lin, Director, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, said: “Taiwan’s ‘do ahead, think ahead’ strategy has paid off. We were the first country to ban international travel from China. Today, our schools, businesses and offices are all open – however, we continue to practice social distancing.”

Taiwan Tourism Bureau is focusing on ‘healing holidays’ as the theme of travel for 2020 and 2021, with soft adventure activities such as hiking and biking.

Nasir Jamal Khan, CEO of Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies & Al Naboodah Travel, said: “Safety and security will be the key concern of travellers and we are seeing this in the large number of new enquiries for chartering private jets by large GCC families who want to get away for a break. I am very sure that private jets will become an important source of business for us as well as for the industry going forward.”

Perhaps on the other end of the luxury spectrum, businesses that deal in volume such as low cost carriers (LCCs) will not die, but flourish, said Khan. “LCCs may even take a higher market share from legacy carriers than ever before.”

Khan added: “Travel insurance is an issue we need to address: it should be made mandatory in our part of the world and not optional, giving protection and much-needed confidence to travellers.”

Muzzammil AHussain, Executive Vice President – Consumer Travel, Almosafer of Seera Group, said: “While safety and security of destinations and airlines are of utmost importance, it is equally important to consider when people will be coming back home after a holiday. For instance, you may be quarantined in your home country for two weeks after returning from your holiday or even be quarantined in your host country for two weeks before being let out. People will not travel unless there is some security about when they can come back home, unless it is for an emergency.”

Ramsumesh R Menon, Chief Executive Officer, Gosaibi Travel, which manages cruise shore excursions in Bahrain apart from inbound and outbound travel, said: “We believe cruises are definitely going to open up this year by autumn, looking at selective itineraries. They see great potential in the Middle East as the impact of Covid-19 has been lesser here compared to the rest of the world. There are plans for deployment of large ships in Dubai and the region, complete with itineraries with lesser port of calls and social distancing inbuilt onboard the vessel ship as well as for shore excursions.”

Purchasing power is on the decline globally as individuals and businesses face financial disruption due to Covid-19. Much of the initial recovery in the aviation sector, when it does open up, will come from the visiting friends and relatives segment.

Low-cost carriers (LCCs) have been steadily gaining a greater share of regional skies for years globally. Leading data and analytics company GlobalData, says that the UAE’s LCCs could witness renewed demand and buoy local aviation demand once the pandemic becomes more subdued.

Just like buoyancy of LCCs, regional and local traveller surveys are showing positive traveller sentiment and intent.

A survey found that 60 per cent of people are planning to travel upon resumption of domestic and international flights, and 40 of the respondents are eager to book a relaxing getaway as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted. The majority of respondents are planning to travel within the next three months, saw a survey conducted by Wego on travellers’ behaviours and Mena travel trends.

A survey conducted by Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies found that 75 per cent of people said they would travel within 30 days of the pandemic coming under control.

Another such survey conducted by Taiwan Tourism Bureau, with 13,000 respondents, saw that 30 per cent of the people would like to go for international travel as the first thing they would like to do after the pandemic.

Traveller intent is positive and within this content Switzerland Tourism launched its “Dream now – travel later” message of hope in March. The flags of several countries fighting Covid-19 were projected to the Matterhorn, including all the GCC flags. In return, the UAE projected the Swiss flag on several buildings.

Albrecht said: “Switzerland Tourism always enjoyed a very close relationship with the trade. We continue to maintain this now through Switzerland Academy, but also through very simple telephone calls where we just ask our partner and friends how they are doing.

“Hope dies last. We are all in this together and we will come out of this together. I am hopeful for the summer,” Albrecht concluded.