The current coronavirus epidemic is not the first blow to the travel and tourism industry as it has emerged from many crises in the past. However, this time, the losses sustained by the travel industry will be more than it did in the previous cases. While coronavirus has been calamitous to the scale uncharted before, the travel and tourism industry will now need to remake itself as it did after various other downturns in the past such as 9/11 and SARS epidemic of 2003 that struck China, Hong Kong and some parts of South East Asia, Farhat Jamal, former senior vice-president operations, IHCL-Taj Group, and group advisor-hospitality, Hiranandani Group, Mumbai, wrote in The Indian Express.
The travel and tourism industry is expected to have 50 million lesser jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates as there will be a 25% decline in global travel. India alone is expected to report losses to the tune of Rs 5 lakh crore and job losses of about four crore to five crore. These figures are dynamic and will depend on how the lockdown situation persists. From airlines to restaurants, the threat is looming large for not only owners but also their employees. Industry associations in the country have already sought government intervention to tide over the crisis at hand.
However, the lesson that stakeholders and government must draw from the crisis is that preparedness is the only weapon in arsenal to prevent such crises, Farhat Jamal wrote in the newspaper. “In the aftermath of COVID-19, we must accept that epidemics and virus breakouts may return to haunt us again in the future. Preparedness should be our key takeaway from this experience,” he said. Hotels will not only need to ramp up technology but also ensure availability of basic protective equipment such as masks, infra thermometers, gloves and a set or two of PPEs. The government and the industry also needs to prescribe minimum hygiene and sanitation guidelines and compliance standards.