Looking for leadership in the midst of a pandemic
Looking for leadership in the midst of a pandemic

Global tourism bodies and governments should take the lead to support the industry in crisis

1 April 2020 We are probably at that unique moment in time where the world as a whole is looking for answers and most governments, individuals and communities are scrambling to contain the spread of the contagion and most importantly, to survive. This is probably a challenge that the world has not faced ever, simply because of the fact that it is now a connected world. The very fact that we can travel across most borders is what has allowed the virus to spread and affect thousands, if not millions.

While we have to understand that no one has a magic wand to make all this go away, it is very important to have broad direction from world bodies and most importantly governments. The most dire if not unsurprising, is the assessment from the UNWTO - that Tourism arrivals could fall 20-30% in 2020, and this may be revised in the coming days.

UNWTO’s open house strategy

The UNWTO has set up a crisis committee that has called for solid international leadership and for tourism to be included as a priority in future recovery efforts. It has also made available free online courses from its Tourism Online Academy and given free access to all to the UNWTO e-library. The UNWTO is also taking in applications till April 15th for its Healing Solutions Tourism Challenge, looking for the most innovative and ready-to-implement solutions to mitigate Covid-19 impacts on Tourism.

WTTC’s call to protect livelihoods

Other tourism organisations like the WTTC have said that significant and swift measures are needed to support the travel industry in the turbulent months ahead. It has called on Governments to protect the livelihood of workers, offer fiscal support and inject liquidity and cash into the industry.

What is the government’s role now?

This is a clarion call to individual governments to manage the deep economic impact the Covid-19 outbreak has had on their health infrastructures,  economies and local communities. The Pandemic has given rise to unprecedented scenarios globally, and while we struggle for answers, it is imperative to rethink business models factoring in future scenarios of this scale. In India’s case, while a lockdown is in place, we are struggling to control urban-rural migration which can have deep health impacts on the rural ecosystem, not to mention a deprivation of livelihood to millions.

We understand the government is also on a learning curve as the situation is unprecedented, but it is probably the right time for us as a community, to list our demands for the Tourism Industry as a whole to make it less painful for the small and medium establishments to recover when all this is over. A sector that provides 10% of jobs is vitally important to the country’s economy and there has to be fiscal incentives and a recovery plan in place, after due consultation with all stakeholders.

Lastly, communication is key especially during a crisis. This is critical for a destination brand, as it builds trust with current and future travellers. The launch of #strandedinindiaby the Ministry of Tourism is a welcome albeit late step. Here’s hoping that the government will be proactive and use its social handles wisely and well, for the benefit of all.

(Main photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash)

Sonali Chatterjee is Project Consultant with the Outlook Responsible Tourism Initiative. With over 30 years experience on the commercial side of media, Sonali has been the Sales Director South Asia at CNN International for 11 years and Head of Sponsorship and Client Solutions at BBC World for 10 years. While she has worked with Corporate and Government sectors closely, Travel & Tourism and Destination Branding remain her passion.