I have spent the last week watching, listening and reading every possible news about COVID-19 in search of clarity. Honestly, all I have found is more confusion, with differing opinions changing daily and inconsistent messaging from some governments and local authorities. The constant noise has caused me a high level of anxiety as I’m sure it has for many of you as well. While we need to find a cure to COVID-19, we also need find a cure to the current “info-demic” which is causing as much damage as the virus.
Though it is important to stay updated on the latest developments particularly in your community, it is important to heed the advice of reputable health experts and professionals, rather than rely on hearsay or other unreliable sources. I know I have said this many times before, but I must stress how important it is to consider all factual data and information, and measure an appropriate and balanced response during times such as these. Leave it to the experts to provide you with the correct information and advice, and remove all the other noise and opinions. When in doubt follow the recommendations laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nevertheless, from all the information I received, what I do know is that as the world prepares itself to #flattenthecurve through social distancing, we the tourism industry need to prepare ourselves now for a delayed recovery.
Already in this early stage, tourism businesses are experiencing severe economic hardships, and some are struggling just to stay afloat. A decade ago, financial analysts used to say that a business should have at least three months cash reserves, and later on extended that idea to six months. However, the reality is that you should have at least one year of cash reserves. Those who have not built a decent reserve will most likely have to take some drastic actions in the near future such as cost containment, possible layoffs and/or sale of assets. Those who have built substantial cash reserves can use this time to improve their back office systems, complete outstanding projects, or soft experiment some new ideas and concepts. It is also a good time to strategize and prepare your business for recovery. I expect that when we see a speedy decline in cases globally and travel restrictions start being lifted, the recovery will come fast as people will be keen to get a change of scenery.
Under PATA’s vision for 2020, ‘Partnerships for Tomorrow’, now is also good opportunity to reach out to your fellow PATA members, strengthen existing relationships and work towards building a more resilient, responsible, sustainable and stronger travel and tourism industry. With this in mind, please do keep an eye out for our updated Members Directory (for PATA members only), which we will be publishing in a few weeks’ time. Furthermore, we are also leveraging the collective knowledge of our members to provide a series of webinars to help the industry understand the current situation and help prepare them for what lays ahead. As a membership association, we must remember our strength lies in the extensive network of our members.
In the meantime, we all need to do our part and protect the health of our families, employees and the public. This may be a good time for your organisation to experiment with flexible working hours and working from home (WFH) policies to relieve some of the stress and anxiety caused by the risk of contamination.
As travel restrictions are still in place, it may also be wise to do as Estonia Tourism has done and wish your prospective visitors to stay home for the time being and visit your destination at a later time. Inspire people and invite them to dream about the wonders of your destination.
We may not see it yet, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We must stay calm, vigilant and put the safety and well-being of people first.
We are stronger together and, at PATA, we will continue to stand by our members and industry colleagues during times such as these.
Till next time,
Dr. Mario Hardy,
Chief Executive Officer,
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)