What will the “New Normal” be for the tourism industry

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has outlined what the “new normal” will look like once COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted and travel restrictions are eased.

Public-private collaboration between business and governments is vital to develop new health protocols which will form the travel experience and also provide people with strong reassurances when travelling.

Travel is likely to return first to domestic markets with staycations; then to a country’s nearest neighbours before expanding across regions, and then finally across continents to welcome the return of journeys to long-haul international destinations.

WTTC believes younger travellers in the 18-35 age group, who appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, may also be among the first to begin travelling once again.

There will be new protocols for check-in involving digital technology; hand sanitiser stations at frequent points including where luggage is stored; contactless payment instead of cash; using stairs more often than lifts where the 2 meter rule can be harder to maintain; and fitness equipment being moved for greater separation among other examples.

Travellers at airports will find themselves tested before they fly and upon arrival at their destination airport. They can expect to see social distancing measures at the airport and during boarding, as well as wearing masks while onboard.

Aircraft will also be subject to intensive cleansing regimes. These measures will be combined with contact-tracing, via mobile app, that will allow flights to leave airports COVID-19-free.

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In South Africa, the statement made last week by the Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane that the domestic tourism season “will likely only start in December” and that no international tourism would occur this year, is most concerning.

Her statement implies that any tourism recovery plan that government may implement will not apply a phased or staggered approach.

Unless certain sub-sectors of the travel and tourism sector start opening up soon, there will be nothing left to start in December.

A recovery plan should start with the opening of the hospitality industry within the parameters of meeting hygiene and social distancing protocols. Doing this would reduce further job losses and the termination of additional hospitality establishments.

The Democratic Alliance will be asking the Minister about a tourism recovery plan at the Tourism Portfolio Committee meeting this week.

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