Greater international coordination and a widespread antigen testing regime are the most important factors for restarting tourism according to industry leaders at WTM Virtual’s UNWTO, WTTC and WTM Ministers’ Summit.
“Antigen is the solution, in our mind,” said Gloria Guevara, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council during a panel discussion entitled Leading the Way to Recovery, Rebuilding Confidence, on Monday of WTM Virtual.
Ministers agreed that the focus needed to shift from PCR tests to Antigen tests, which give rapid results and are cheaper to produce.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said:
“We recently travelled to Brussels to lobby for use of that test. This is the way forward. In my view, this is the way to replace bans and quarantine. We are some weeks or months away from that but we are in the pilot phase. I’m hopeful next year we’ll have regimes in place.”
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism pointed out that besides quarantine restrictions, cost was proving a barrier due to the higher prices of insurance and the need for travellers to pay for expensive PCR COVID tests.
Ministers also spoke of the need for a coordinated approach. Minister Theoharis said:
“We have had a lot of confusion, a lot of different rules. We’ve seen a lot of pent up demand and mainly confusion is the problem.”
However, he advised not to underestimate the difficulty of cross-border coordination of responses during the pandemic, which was proving challenging even across the EU.
The WTTC wants to see its Safe Travel Stamp become the standard so that health protocols would be the same in hotels in Manila, London or New York.
The organisation projects that 174 million tourism-related jobs could be lost by the end of this year.
WTTC has put forward a plan to recover 100 million jobs within 18 months but believes this is only possible if there’s a coordinated approach to tourism’s global recovery.
“The timeframe is up to us. If we can learn from the past we can recover in 18 months, that’s the difference – 18 months or up to four years,” said Guevara.
Jordan’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al-Fayez said:
“I think we should be learning from others because we don’t have the luxury of time.”
There was praise for Greece’s response, which has involved passenger locator forms in tandem with testing. The country gave early attention to how it would restart travel.
“Greece has a blueprint. Greece has delivered very well this year,” said Thomas Ellerbeck, a member of TUI’s Group Executive Committee.
The session also heard how the Philippines had created tourism ‘bubbles’ around hotspots like Boracay making them accessible for those who have tested negative for the virus before travel.
Romulo-Puyat said the next stage was to open these up to South East Asia then the whole of Asia.