The travel and tourism industry are living through one of the darkest times in human history. With governments across the globe closing their borders, airlines shutting operations, cruise liners suspending any schedule until further notice, NTOs are brainstorming and drafting strategies and marketing plan to remain at the top of the minds of travellers.
Today, travel has evolved from luxury to necessity and destinations understand that whenever situation stabilizes and normalcy is reinstated, travellers are set to pack their bags and travel. There might be a dip in long-haul travel but there is a very bright chance of short-haul destinations benefitting post the pandemic. When the entire globe is reprioritizing their business strategies, the question is will India remain a top priority market post the pandemic?
Magnitude of impact
To begin with, the pandemic started from a destination which is close to most of the major tourism kingpins in the Asia Pacific Region (APAC), including the world. This led to an early closedown and restriction in the APAC region. The region is set to witness a major impact in terms of tourist arrivals going southwards.
Speaking about the impact, GB Srithar, Regional Director, India, Middle East and South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board, said, “The impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak on travel, tourism, aviation and hospitality is unprecedented. We initially anticipated a 25 per cent to 30 per cent decline in visitor arrivals globally, but we can expect further decline now that more countries have reported outbreaks and travel restrictions have been implemented around the world.”
The tourism segment started witnessing a setback even before the outbreak became a pandemic. Leisure travellers started travelling less with the Covid-19 outbreak news at the initial phase.
In an interview on March 23, 2020 before the outbreak in India, Cholada Siddhivarn, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand – Mumbai office said, “In my opinion, everybody is affected not just only people in the tourism industry and its supply chains but all businesses across sectors. Holidaying is all about emotions. In the current scenario, people are not in the mood for travel of any kind, be it for work or leisure hence there has been a dip in the travel industry worldwide. Most of the airlines have suspended their flights from India to Thailand, which has impacted hotels, restaurants, travel(local) industries in Thailand. But amid the madness, we stand by our fellow partners to overcome this together.” There is a total ban on any domestic and international schedule services at the time of writing this story.
Echoing similar opinion, Trust HJ Lin, Director of India, Asia Pacific And Middle East, Taiwan Tourism Bureau said: “At this moment, Taiwan has closed its borders to international tourists, and is also restricting domestic travellers within Taiwan. We were amongst the earliest to react, with testing and screening measures that came into place in Dec 2019 itself. While that has kept the situation under check, we are ensuring transparency in our process, ensuring all information is given promptly and continue to reassure the world that we are dedicated in our efforts. With almost all countries closing borders and most flights globally cancelled, this situation is unprecedented and we stand united with the world and India in dealing with the situation.”
Will India remain a priority source market?
…And the answer is affirmative. Most of the destinations in the region are set to look at India as one of the most important markets post the covid-19 issue. Looking at the growing outbound numbers and predictions, Indian outbound will be one of the first to revive.
“India has always been a priority for marketing South Korea as a tourist destination. There is great potential in this region with more than 65 million passport holders and millennial travellers who are willing to experience new destinations every time they plan their holiday. It is imperative for us to be present as a destination offering to the Indian travelers,” Jong Sool Kwon, Director, Korea Tourism Organization, New Delhi, said.
Being more optimistic, destinations are now looking to restructure and revise their targets. At the start of the year, Taiwan had announced that 2020 would be the year of promoting their mountains in India.
“India has been and will remain an important market for us. In the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in traffic from India. And once things improve and travel resumes, this theme of mountains becomes more pertinent than ever. Holiday for Healing is not just meant for trekkers or nature enthusiasts, but also for families, couples and solo travellers – encouraging them to choose their style of holidaying but spend it more focussed on enjoying the serene within and the beauty around, rather than going overboard on consumerism. Initially, we were looking at a 20 per cent growth in this year’s tourism from India. We will only be able to issue a revised estimate for this year and next, once the situation improves,” Lin added.
Reiterating the confidence in India market, Thailand feels that India will always remain their priority market despite challenges. In 2019, Thailand witnessed a 25 per cent growth from this market.
“India, has always been one of the important source markets for Thailand. 2019 witnessed an increase 0f 25% in Indian arrivals, approximately 1.96 million visitors. This year the entire tourism industry has witnessed a dip in tourist arrivals globally, but I am sure once the pandemic ends there is no looking back. India is and will always be an important market for us as it has huge potential,” Siddhivarn said.
Majority of the asian destinations have been lauded across the globe for the measures and efforts they have taken to contain the pandemic. Destinations in this part of the world are ready and are looking at the highest level of sanitization and hygiene to tackle this issue soon.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Singapore Government has progressively implemented a series of measures to reduce the risk of imported cases and spread of the virus. We have also been communicating regularly with our valued partners to keep them updated of the situation in Singapore, and the measures we have taken to contain the spread of the virus. The key priority for all of us in this sector now is to support our governments’ measures to keep their citizens and residents as safe and protected as possible, reducing the risks of infections through any kind of travel,” Srithar said.
Similarly, South Korea has been one of the nations which almost stopped the widespread and are similarly taking measures so as to welcome travellers at the earliest. “Safety is our first priority when it comes to travelling in Korea. South Korea has been applauded world over for its proactive approach on containing COVID-19 pandemic. We are working to achieve similar standards when we welcome the travellers post coronavirus issue is resolved,” Kwon informed.
Globally, it has been accepted that the way of traveling will surely change, travellers behavior will change. Travellers will be more cautious about not only security but also the safety and hygiene while travelling to a destination. To cater to these travelers, destinations need to revamp and tweak their strategies.
“As we focus on recovery, Taiwan will embark on this new campaign focusing on: ‘Holiday for Healing’. Focussing on enriching holidays which emphasise on quality time being spent together by families, friends. Rejuvenating experiences, rather than commercialised options. These will include greater focus on our mountains, natural hot springs, trekking, birdwatching and similar experiences. Greater interaction and experience with the culture of Taiwan and its people instead of large, crowded festivals. And finally, continued transparency on the health situation, and prioritizing the well-being of all visitors. We have received global praise for our deft handling of the health situation in Taiwan, with compliments for being prompt and transparent. Even in the aftermath of the virus, transparency of the situation and well-being of our visitors will continue to remain a priority,” Lin said.
Thailand also prioritizes on educating the travel trade during this period and showcasing newer destinations which is vastly unexplored by Indians. “Our primary objective would be to educate and reach out to our travel trade partners across cities with various product offerings and assure them safety while traveling to Thailand. Post which, we will concentrate on the marketing and joint promotions activities across India. With COVD-19 and work from home scenario, the atmosphere has not been at its best. Post COVD-19 there will be a change and a sudden demand for travel to places which not only entertain but give a feel-good experience. Our strategies will be directed towards this need and will showcase Thailand in a newer perceptive,” Siddhivarn revealed.
With a proper plan in place, South Korea is set to go the digital way. The destination is using all its digital tools to remain at the top of the travellers’ minds. “We are working more on our digital strengths currently and have launched webinars to educate our travel trade partners on the latest product offerings of South Korea. Once the COVID-19 situation is over, we plan to do multicity trainings with OTOAI. We will be reaching more than 2500 travel agents this year. Our Social Media campaigns will be running parallel to the webinars. By the time this situation gets resolved travel agents will be well prepared to offer a new destination to their clients,” Kwon informed.
“STB is leading the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), which brings together key stakeholders from the private and public sector in Singapore to develop and coordinate the recovery strategies and plans for Singapore tourism. These plans will be launched at an appropriate time. I am hopeful that this too shall pass and the travel industry along with the rest of the world will bounce back to normalcy and inherent dynamism,” Srithar concluded.