The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) recently hosted an online forum titled “Beyond COVID-19: Global Tourism’s New Normal” – the first event of its kind focusing on the post-pandemic tourism prospects for Hong Kong, the Mainland, Asia, and the world.
More than 4,000 tourism industry representatives, journalists, and academics registered for the June 24th event as global industry leaders shared insights into the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on travel, how the industry should respond, and the trends to expect as people begin travelling again in the post-pandemic period.
In his opening remarks, HKTB Chairman Dr YK Pang emphasized the importance of restoring consumer confidence.
“As an industry, our central mission must be to give every traveller the confidence and reassurance that their trip is safe from start to finish,” he said. “Our cooperation must cross geographical and business boundaries. We must pool our knowledge and expertise and draw on our collective ingenuity to navigate the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
Dr. Pang highlighted initiatives Hong Kong’s tourism industry has taken to stay ahead of the curve in containing the spread of the pandemic, and announced that the HKTB would team up with the HKSAR Government and trade partners to create “Open House Hong Kong” – a unique and region-leading travel platform to tell the world Hong Kong is a COVID-safe destination ready to welcome back visitors with attractive offerings and exciting experiences.
He invited trade partners from around the world to support the platform by providing enticing offers for travelling to Hong Kong as a leading destination for visitors from every continent.
Seven internationally-respected speakers representing different sectors discussed the latest consumer sentiments and behaviour, and gave their insights into the challenges confronting the industry.
Here is a selection of their expert observations:
Steve Saxon, Partner, McKinsey & Company:
“COVID-19 is a major humanitarian challenge. Yet there are implications for the wider economy and businesses. For instance, USD 0.9 trillion to 1.2 trillion has been lost in export revenues from tourism worldwide. While global tourism may return to previous levels in 2022, China, Indonesia, and the US stand out in optimism, with travel in China coming back to around half of the previous levels currently. However, traveller confidence is still low, and recovery is slower than expected. On the other hand, there is a major opportunity to capitalise on domestic travel and younger and family travellers, as most consumers are expecting to travel less – especially internationally – after COVID-19. China, the UK, and Germany are among those with the greatest potential in domestic travel.”
Hermione Joye, Sector Lead, Travel & Vertical Search APAC, Google:
“COVID-19 has led to a generational shift in the way the world operates, the travel industry almost came to a halt with global interest in travel dropping 3 times of that of pre-COVID times (based on search data). As a result, there is no longer a predictable normal when it comes to how consumers behave, and this is particularly true when it comes to the way they are thinking about travel. I am looking forward to sharing trends, consumer insights and principles that could help marketers respond in the ‘new normal’.”
Jane Sun, CEO, Trip.com Group:
“At Trip.com Group, we believe it is our duty to guide travellers and the industry through this challenging period. That’s why from the onset of the pandemic, our teams have worked tirelessly to process over RMB 30 billion in cancellations and we’ve given our partners over RMB 1 billion in financial support. Now, as things come under control, we’re seeing a rebound in demand, we’ve launched a USD 500 million fund for partners, and we’re offering flexible, safe, and discounted travel options for customers – to help our customers and the industry ‘travel on’.”
Gloria Guevara, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC):
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating global socio-economic impact, our recent research shows that more than 197 million jobs are at risk, which would cause a loss of more than USD 5.5 trillion to Travel & Tourism GDP worldwide. It is vital for the survival of the Travel & Tourism sector that we work together and map out the road to recovery, through coordinated actions, and rebuild the confidence that people need to begin travelling once again. Our recently launched ‘Safe Travels’ stamp will enable travellers to recognise the businesses and destinations worldwide which have implemented the WTTC global protocols and will encourage the return of ‘Safe Travels’ around the world. It will, in turn, enable the Travel & Tourism sector to reopen for business and move in a coordinated approach.”
Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, International Air Transport Association (IATA):
“The revival of the travel and tourism sector is vital. Millions of livelihoods depend on it. As some parts of the world begin to reopen their economies, I have no doubt that people will still want to travel. But adapting to the realities of COVID-19 and rebuilding people’s confidence is a challenge that must be met head-on with cooperation. Aviation is a case in point. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) developed global guidelines to mitigate the risk COVID-19 transmission when traveling by air. Now governments need to align in leading the implementation with the full support of the industry. We will only be successful by working together.”
Peter C. Borer, COO, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd:
“The hospitality industry will move forward towards a ‘new normal’, with unprecedented health and safety measures in place. As leaders of the industry, we must collaborate, leave behind the paradigms of the past and look towards a new future. The hotel industry was already moving towards digitisation, artificial intelligence and robotics, and the health crisis has accelerated this trend. In the short term, we must regain the confidence and the trust of our guests and reassure them that they are safe when they stay with us. However, in the long term, the fundamentals of hospitality will not change, and guests will always appreciate personalised service.”
Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director & CEO, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI):
“Exhibitions and business events are the market places and the meeting places for every industry around the world. They are key to any economic recovery, and we have the know-how and standards to make them safe to attend. COVID-19 will lead to new procedures, standards, and processes. The pandemic is accelerating trends that were already shaping up around the ‘marriage’ of the on-site event with online services before, during, and after the event. Business events will become more digital. But the main element that is driving success is and remains the direct exchange, the face-to-face meeting. Clicks don’t discuss deals, and eyeballs don’t sign orders.”
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