Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries have closed their borders in an attempt to mitigate the spread of infections, effectively cutting off international tourism while even within countries, lockdowns have kept people from straying too far from their doors.
But all is not pessimistic. Faeez Fadhlillah, co-founder and CEO of Tripfez Travel Sdn Bhd, which runs an online travel platform, believes the tourism industry is about to bounce back and adapt to the new normal, with long-term opportunities for industry players.
âHistorically, tourism is a very resilient industry. There have always been sharp declines following past epidemics such as SARS, H1N1 and MERS-CoV. But after about six to 12 months, we saw the activity pick up again. So I expect that we will see a recovery in the third quarter. At least starting with domestic tourism, âexplains Faeez.
Earlier this year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicted a 3-4% growth in international tourist arrivals for 2020 globally. Similar growth was recorded last year – the organization saw a 4% growth in international tourists in 2019, based on data reported by destinations around the world.
On May 7, however, the UNWTO released another report, indicating that the Covid-19 pandemic caused a 22% drop in international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2020. Arrivals in March fell sharply by 57%, after the start of a lockdown. in many countries as well as border closures. This translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about $ 80 billion in tourism exports.
Operating in the tourism industry, Faeez says the company has been hit hard. It has struggled to generate income since the start of global border closures and lockdowns. However, he is convinced that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. âRecently, we did a study and found that over the next four to six months, around 40% of those surveyed would consider traveling within the country to Malaysia. I think this is a very promising start to relaunch the industry, âFaeez said.
He says demand will increase, as seen in China, which has lifted some of the lockdowns it has put in place. According to the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, during this year’s five-day holiday in early May, the number of domestic trips fell by 41% from 2019. Despite the drop, that number far exceeds three Qingming Festival holiday days in early April, signaling signs of recovery.
âThis is essentially an indication that there is a rebound in tourism and that the recovery could be much faster than expected. Hopefully we will see similar patterns in countries that have lifted their lockdowns and [opened] to their borders, âFaeez explains.
Quoting Winston Churchill’s quote, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” Faeez says tourism industry players must step up and take advantage of the situation. âOne thing we need to note is that tourism is a major contributor to a country’s GDP. The economies of some countries depend heavily on tourism.
âIn Malaysia, the gross value added of tourism industries to GDP is 15.2% in 2018. It’s reasonably high, so the government cannot overlook it. I expect governments around the world to help revive the tourism industry in their own countries – this is another opportunity we are looking at, âFaeez said.
Going forward, Faeez says the tourism industry will have to adjust to the new normal. He says Covid-19 is here to stay, so there is no choice but to adapt and work around the situation. âAs a company, we are always able to sustain in the short term with what we have done before. But in the long term, we are looking at how we are going to put in place offers adapted to the post-pandemic situation.
âOne of those things that we focus heavily on is the personalization and personalization of vacations and Umrah. The latter, for example, has always been very traditional: you go to an agency and follow the packages it offers. We are not only looking to digitize this process, but also to personalize it. Customers can choose what kind of activities they want, so they don’t have to follow the rest of the crowd. We think it’s a way to adjust to the new normal, âFaeez said.