*by Luciane Leite
For almost two months now we’ve been working in a scenario that has no precedents, either in Brazil or worldwide. Millions of people are working from home – and totally dependent on technology – and millions more professionals have had their employment contracts suspended, or are unemployed as a result of the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus. The WHO – World Health Organization – had been predicting an outbreak similar to this, but was not sure which disease or virus would have an impact on a global scale.
It’s quite possible, however, that not even the WHO’s studies predicted that the global economy would grind to a halt. The pandemic has overwhelmingly changed the current shape of commercial relations, the way in which health programmes around the world operate, people’s consumption behaviour and the right of citizens to come and go.
The new coronavirus has spread silently across the world and has hit the tourism industry hard. Airlines, hotel chains, tour operators, travel agencies, transport companies, restaurants and leisure and business tourist destinations have seen their visitors and, consequently, their revenues disappear.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that the effect on the global economy of the downturn in tourism will be a loss of around US$ 2.1 trillion and some 75 million jobs worldwide. Phocuswright came up with a platform that shows the companies that are laying off their employees or suspending their contracts. A total of 537,990 professionals lost their jobs in the tourism industry in just 30 days. Another projection, this time taken from a study by Delloitte, indicates that any return to activity in the tourism industry is likely to be slow and gradual, with local travel starting in September and international travel in December.
In the midst of crisis there is opportunity, a statement that has already been used by many business gurus. But it is always good to stress that in the midst of chaos there’s a need for attention, sensitivity and a greater investment in knowledge and relationships.
The labour market was already often brutal, but when the pandemic has passed those who are still working, or who return following suspension of their contracts, will need to act quickly, strategically and in a way that adds a lot of value. Improving theory and technique and developing new skills can contribute towards the training and formation of professionals in this period when the tourism sector is almost in shutdown. As always, knowledge is going to be the major differential of those who are going to be on the front line when operations resume.
Networking, on the other hand, not only for those looking for a new job, but for the industry as a whole, is the most significant, timely and rich currency we have in this chain. With people being deprived of personal contact, it’s up to technology to play the role of ally and unite professionals, associations, the trade and important representatives in the search for solutions for a successful and significant outcome at all links in the chain.
In October we have WTM Latin America, which will perhaps the first major international tourism meeting in Brazil. It will be a unique moment for looking ahead and building new paths together that will give fresh meaning to the Latin American tourist industry.
What is certain is that the economy will start growing again, even if it is gradually. Tourism will recover and we’ll need a competent, aligned and finely tuned workforce in order to return to the level that the tourism industry recently occupied in the global economy.
It will be hard work; work that needs commitment and requires a lot of learning, but it will be completely viable. After all, we have an entire society that, at the slightest sign of improvement, is waiting for us to make an effort to look for the paths to business sustainability in a new way of looking at the world.
*Luciane Leite is the director of WTM Latin America, the leading B2B event in travel and tourism in Latin America.