The future for travel and tourism looks bright after the pandemic recedes but firms, tourist boards and governments must not forget the lessons of the Covid-19 crisis.
That was the message from travel bosses at WTM Virtual, during a debate entitled Travel Future: Embracing the new world of tourism.
Jonathan Keane, Managing Director and Global Industry Lead for Aviation at Accenture, said he was not sure that the industry would respond quickly if another pandemic or crisis hit travel.
“We need to work together much more, such as the airports, airlines and authorities,” he told moderator Babita Sharma, BBC World News presenter.
“We are solving these problems locally.
“A global pandemic was on corporate risk registers but we did not do much about it. It may manifest itself again.”
Godja Soennichsen, Communications and Media Cooperation Director at TUI Cruises, said the key was to focus on “solutions not problems”.
“TUI Cruises was forced to stop sailing but we were always convinced there is way to offer holidays and we did find a solution,” she said.
The cruise line collaborated with authorities and destinations on new Covid-19 health protocols and resumed sailing in July. It has since carried 40,000 guests.
Colin C. James, Chief Executive of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said 65% of the destination’s GDP comes from tourism so it was vital to reopen in June.
It focused on health protocols, testing, training staff and developing new products – such as a ‘digital nomad’ programme to encourage visitors to stay for work.
“We developed a ‘space’ campaign, because there was huge demand for villas and low-rise bungalows,” he said.
“Technology has really helped make us more efficient…and, on the marketing side, using social media to get our message out at a low cost.
“Entrepreneurial start-ups are doing everything online such as using Google maps and geo-positioning commentary on apps.”
Dr Betty Radier, Chief Executive of Kenya Tourism Board, agreed that technology was vital for helping rebuild confidence among the trade and consumers.
The tourist board is using audio-visual content to show agents and travellers about the experience in airports and beyond.
However, Keane warned that travel companies now have “a generation of debt” to pay back, so they need to be more flexible, have lower costs and be better at service delivery.
“This is our opportunity to build back better and stronger,” he concluded.