A lot of measures will have to weigh in for the Travel & Tourism industry. As vaccination programmes roll out, the tourism sector continues to plan to get back to normal as soon as possible, contingency planning for recovery in the near future.
Covid-19’s second wave has jolted the travel and hospitality industry very badly. Leave alone travelling, people are even cautious about stepping out of their homes. While travelling saw return of some activities in the first quarter of 2021, the second wave has completely taken the green out of newly sprouting shoots. The travel and hospitality segment has been dealt a severe blow by the second wave. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Liam Findlay, General Manager, Experience Hub at Yas Island, Abudhabi talks about impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry, how the travel industry will bounce back and travel to Yas island. Excerpts
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry?
One of the most adventurous and entertaining ways of meeting new people is through travelling, to explore new places and immerse oneself in experiences like never before. With the outbreak of Covid-19, the travel and tourism sector came to a halt. Tourism is understood to be a key driver for socio-economic progress, heavily contributing to the global GDP. Taking the hardest hit of all sectors, the pandemic impacted the tourism industry and with it the associated sectors of hospitality, travel agencies, etc. Sporadic border closing due to lockdowns brought overseas travel to a standstill. In addition to this, there was a drastic fall in business travels, also affecting leisure tours, global events and MICE tourism.
How has Yas Island been affected with the outbreak of pandemic?
On February 27, 2020, we were informed by local authorities that two members of a tour group tested positive for Coronavirus. The people concerned were not guests at W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, although they were in contact with guests at the hotel recently. As a precautionary measure the authorities placed the hotel on temporary lockdown and undertook necessary health screenings. The safety and well-being of guests and associates is always of paramount importance to the hotel and they and the rest of the island hotel and attractions continue to comply with the public health and safety direction provided by the UAE authorities. W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island resumed normal operations a few weeks later, as soon the hotel had clearance from the authorities.
How will the travel industry bounce back post-pandemic?
A lot of measures will have to weigh in for the Travel & Tourism industry. As vaccination programmes roll out, the tourism sector continues to plan to get back to normal as soon as possible, contingency planning for recovery in the near future. Tourism has and will continue to remain vital for Global economic recovery in the Post –epidemic Era. The Tourism sector has already proven to be of assistance by putting its infrastructure, supply chains and staff at the service of public health and humanitarian aid. The industry has remained vigilant in closely monitoring and reacting with agility to the crisis to ensure the safety of public health , leading the way for tourism to recover as economic activity creating long lasting synergies between public health and tourism is an investment in ensuring that the industry is well prepared for future crisis, and contributes to the confidence and trust amongst future travellers, given the importance and current sensitivities towards public health. The harmonization, coordination and digitalization of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures, including testing, tracing and travel health certificates, are essential foundations to promote safe travel and prepare for the recovery of tourism once conditions allow.
Given the current scenario, what precautions are undertaken at Yas Island to facilitate a safe experience for tourists?
We aim to be amongst one of the first fully vaccinated holiday destinations in the world. In the wake of the ongoing situation, we have introduced comprehensive measures on health and safety protocol following UAE authorities’ guidance to ensure visitors feel confident to return to the destination like nowhere else. We have demonstrated our commitment to health and wellbeing by supporting Abu Dhabi’s vaccination program. Over 93% of our employees working at attractions, experiences, hotels, restaurants and retailers at Yas Island, are vaccinated against COVID-19 to date.
Could you tell us about the safety measure in place at Yas Island?
The health and safety of guests is Yas Island’s top priority. We have implemented a variety of precautionary measures to ensure that guests and employees feel safe at all Yas Theme Parks, attractions and the hotels. We have become the first destination in Abu Dhabi to receive the coveted WTTC ‘Safe Travels’ stamp in recognition of our advanced safety efforts.
Maintaining the highest standards of public health and safety, Yas Island introduced numerous safety measures including the ‘#TogetherAtYas’ online platform which offers guests a guide to the public health and safety protocols on Yas Island, and the widely commended ‘Yas Wellness Program’, which grants guests direct access to a dedicated team of Yas Wellness ambassadors.
The Wellness Ambassadors are a team of specially trained individuals who are able to answer guests’ queries on the health and safety measures in place. In order to continually bridge guests to Yas Island, the Wellness Ambassadors are contactable via phone, social media, WhatsApp and email from 8 am to 5pm UAE time, daily.
What are the travel guidelines and quarantine rules in place for tourists?
If the tourist visa has been approved by Abu Dhabi, then passengers can enter the emirate any country. But passengers carrying visit visas issued by any other Emirate can enter the emirate of Abu Dhabi if flying from one of the countries in green list. Tourists are required to check and follow the guidelines of the departing country If their validity for the PCR test is less than 96 hours or if they require children below the 12 years of age to conduct the Covid-19 PCR test. Passengers will have to carry negative covid-19 PCR test results to show at the check-in counter.
After arriving in Abu Dhabi, the passengers will have to download AlHOSN mobile application and the passengers coming from Green countries are not required to do quarantine. Talking about the passengers coming from other countries, they would be required to self-quarantine for 10 days.
Can you shed a light on what one can expect from their visit to Yas Island in terms of a wholesome family experience?
From award-winning theme parks to numerous leisure activities, Yas Island has a lot to offer to the tourists. The Island has a mix of award-winning leisure and entertainment experiences, from one-of-a-kind theme parks, world-class shopping and superb dining, to the globally renowned links golf course, exciting water and motorsports, and spectacular musical, entertainment and family events… all within the 25 sq km Island.
The travellers can immerse themselves in an experience like no other at the award-winning theme parks Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, the record-breaking CLYMB™ Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit (home to the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX™), the glamorous Yas Marina, the award-winning Yas Links golf course, as well as Abu Dhabi’s largest mall, Yas Mall.
The Island is home to eight hotels, including W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Park Inn Radisson, Abu Dhabi, Centro Yas Island, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi Yas Island and Staybridge Suites Abu Dhabi Yas Island, plus more than 165 dining experiences, the destination also features indoor and outdoor concert venues including MAD and Etihad Arena – all of which are complemented by a range of visitor services that connect all attractions to one another.
What are the must-to-do activities for people visiting Yas Island?
All the activities available at Yas Island such as indoor sky-diving, wall climbing are set to give thrills to the travelers who visit a destination like nowhere else. There is always fun and excitement in everything that Yas has to offer to its tourists. So, we suggest when you are at Yas try everything and live life to the fullest.