Joined-up thinking and effort is essential if travellers are to be granted the “seamless” experience they crave – now more than ever
Matt Hancock, Britain’s Health Secretary, extinguished hopes of “lavish” summer holidays abroad on Tuesday, May 12. On the same day, Gloria Guevara, the Chief Executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, called for international standards to ensure a speedy return for the industry profoundly affected by COVID-19.
On This Morning, Mr Hancock stated that vacations in the coming months would “not be possible this year” following the government’s announcement that a 14-day quarantine would be mandatory for all international arrivals into Britain.
Asked whether “summer was cancelled”, he said: “That’s likely to be the case. I just think that’s a reality of life.”
He added: “It is clear that we will seek to reopen some hospitality from early July if we reduce the spread. But social distancing is going to continue. I think it is unlikely big lavish summer holidays will be possible this year.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential international travel since March 17, while domestic holidays are not allowed due to the government’s lockdown orders issued six days later.
Just hours after Mr Hancock spoke on May 12, Ms Guevara pointed out the “devastating” impact of coronavirus on the travel and tourism industry and stressed how the market’s recovery is critical for the health of the global economy.
“Travel and tourism contribute to 10 per cent of the world GDP, employs 330 million people around the world – that’s one out of ten,” she said at a session at The Global Boardroom, a virtual event organised by The Financial Times. “We have never seen something of this nature. The worst that we had before is 2008, and this is five times [worse]. We’re estimating a little bit over 100 million jobs have been impacted, $2.7 trillion [has been] lost.”
LEARNING FROM PAST MISTAKES
Ms Guevara stated that one out of every four jobs created in 2019 was in the travel and tourism industry. “[The travel and tourism industry] is the backbone of the [global] economy. The impact [of COVID-19] has been devastating.”
She called on key powerbrokers – including those within the sector as well as governments around the world – to learn from past mistakes, and suggested it took the travel and tourism industry “five years” to recover after 9/11. “It took so long because it was complicated and there was a lack of coordination among governments, there was a lack of standards and protocols, and everyone came up with their own standards,” Ms Guevara continued.
Comparing 9/11 with the financial crash of 2008 showed that some lessons had been heeded. “It took us 18 months, because we had a platform like the G20, and we had a very good coordinated approach.
“The ministers of finance took the lead with the private sector from the financial institutions, and that helped us to move forward. So what we’re saying right now is make sure that we learn from the past, let’s make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes. We’re asking the G20 and the governments to help us to adopt the new standards we have announced so that we can move faster and recover faster.
“There is a ‘new normal’ – before the vaccine and after the vaccine. Once the vaccine is ready, it’s going to be perhaps a little bit different than what we had before. But before the vaccine [is discovered and rolled out] we need to be able to travel, and we believe we can travel if we implement the right protocols that they are standard throughout the world.”
RETURNING TO A SEAMLESS TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Ms Guevara laments that a 20-year mission, since 9/11, to create a “seamless travel experience” is in retreat, with delays at airports and at hotels likely for the time being. Technology is helping, though. “We have an agenda that is looking to offer a better experience to travel – what we call the seamless experience,” the Mexican said. “[This experience] is touchless, and uses biometrics, such as facial recognition. This is something that we have been working for years, [but] we have seen the implementation of those technologies speed up.
“Some places are starting to offer the ability for hotel guests to check in with their fingerprint on their smartphone through mobile apps. But the most important thing now is to offer a better experience. There’s also some pilots going on right now to identify the airborne COVID-19, so that you can walk through the airports. There are solutions also to clean areas faster. So everything is related to safety and health, but also the seamless experience for the travellers so that you can do more with less in a nicer way and less risk.”
Here’s hoping governments listen to Ms Guevara’s warning – for the sake of the global economy, and the future of the travel and tourism industry – and that tech advancement will make a seamless holiday experience possible, sooner rather than later.