"The year 2020 will be a landmark in history, as the new standard of reference shifts to Pre and Post-COVID," says Sanjay Datta, President SKAL Asia, as he shares insights on the impact of COVID-19 on the Travel world and what Revival will mean for the industry to get back on its feet.
Datta takes a pragmatic view of the unprecedented upheaval caused by COVID-19 when he says, "Even amidst turbulent times, we must see the silver lining in every cloud, and allow optimism to prevail. The impact of COVID-19 offers an opportune to rethink, re-strategize and, in some cases, restart our business endeavours with renewed vigour and innovation."
He goes on to say, "The day we can press the restart button may seem distant, and especially so for the Tourism industry. Government aid alone will not be sufficient to fuel the industry. The only way forward is mutual cooperation. If we fail to support each other, business closures in 2021 will be far too many. The need of the hour is to kick-start the business. The only feasible approach in the current scenario is to focus on domestic tourism and slow travel, prioritising the preservation of ecosystems and discovering local destinations, thus supporting indigenous industries."
Promoting wellness tourism is another solution, he suggests, as there are several destinations and retreats within the country waiting to be explored. "There is a need to improve on sanitation and hygiene during travel," he qualifies adding, "These aspects will play a great role in ensuring repeat clientele and word-of-mouth publicity."
"Kashmir can once again be marketed as a favourable tourism hotspot," he points out adding, "Travellers will prefer under-explored destinations and bespoke experiences instead of mainstream destinations that witness large crowds of tourists. Collaborating with motels and resorts in small towns with reasonable infrastructure can prove profitable."
Going forward, Datta shares that the tourism sector must innovate and show restraint while doing business, to ensure that everyone gets a decent piece of the cake, which may be smaller but better for sure. A code of conduct has to be in place for times to come, and unethical practices should be dealt with through strong action. Industry associations, as well as the Ministry, must ensure a level playing field for all to implement the Prime Minister’s message of creating a self-reliant India.
With years of travel experience under his belt, Datta has a good understanding of what post-Corona travel is likely to be. "We must also adapt to new norms of travel – which will be more intricately planned, and no longer spontaneous. There may be more documentation requirements, more checks, less frequent flights and lower availability. Visa Regulations will become more stringent, and more e-visas could be introduced to minimize physical contact. Something like an immunity passport may be mandated, and health certifications shall be essential to carry at all times when traveling," is his practical summary.
Datta's final assessment is optimistic. "We shall have to embrace a new beginning, and start from scratch. However, the change will certainly be for the better in the long run. Rebound is always good, as has been proven time and again by various crises that we have survived in the past. While this challenge is different, positivity and foresight shall help us sail through. Tourism will remain a catalyst for global and local economies, provided we express enthusiasm and willingness to accommodate the needs of the new world order, post-COVID."