Travel and tourism poised to pick up again in 2021

Holiday packages to be much cheaper as all stakeholders concerned will try to win back the confidence of the customers.

  
Tourists gather to watch a musical fountain in front of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 12, 2020.

Tourists gather to watch a musical fountain in front of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 12, 2020.

REUTERS/Satish Kumar

The outlook for the travel and tourism industry in 2021 looks promising, as airlines and holiday management companies look to assess the situation and adjust prices accordingly, experts said. Lakshmi Anand, manager of travel and tours at International Travel Services, noted that the travel and tourism sectors have been facing many challenges as a result of the pandemic.

"During these times, airlines and destination management companies worldwide have been very supportive and have extended more support than ever for the year 2021," she said. "Once the current situation subsides, we should focus more on our UAE inbound tourism, before heading overseas. At International Travel Services, we are developing our recovery plan so that we are ready and able to hit the ground running when the crisis abates."

She also revealed that there are discussions about providing travel insurance that covers the virus for travellers. "We were informed by a few insurance companies that they may provide exclusive travel insurance which could cover diseases like Covid-19 or similar for inbound tourists and that for overseas travels it is covered under 'emergency'. We are working closely with UAE hotels for weekend getaways, staycation packages, and rejuvenate packages for residents across the Emirates."

Amit Taneja, chief commercial officer at Cleartrip, said that he was confident in the UAE governing bodies taking a responsible approach to open travel. "Initially, we expect intra-GCC travel to start and for governments to work together to open up traffic corridors between their respective countries to ensure the safety of their citizens and residents," he said.

Currently, he said that there has not been a change in the cost of flying, although airlines will continue to assess demand and adjust their prices accordingly. "Looking forward to when travel resumes, we expect essential business travel to be first, followed by citizens travelling to see family,- and then leisure travel. If we look at cases in the past, airlines have lowered their airfares to help stimulate demand and encourage passengers to fly again."

Asked whether holiday packages might see a drop in prices, Taneja said: "We have not seen a decrease in prices yet, however, airlines are continuing to monitor the situation. When travel restrictions are lifted, we expect that some destinations will be looking to encourage tourism and consumers that are eager to travel could get some great deals."

Jamal Abdulnazar, CEO of Cozmo Travel, explained that the future of air travel depends upon how the world is able to tackle the pandemic. Countries will be partially locked down until an effective vaccine is invented, tested, and proven. Until then, people will not have the confidence to travel and airlines might not have permission to operate to all countries. The situation, he said, will change post the vaccine for Covid-19.

"Everything will fall back to almost normal, however, the air travel industry will not immediately see any boom. Air travel will be limited to very essential travel. It will be the same for business travel as well, since companies now know how things can move on without the necessity for air travel."

Vaccine certificates may be mandatory for air travel and also for visa applications, he added. "Countries may impose more restrictions on visa applicants from countries severely affected by Covid-19. Airfares will become cheaper after the Covid-19 vaccine, when countries open their boundaries and airlines start operations as normal and people will travel more. Countries that manage the Covid-19 situation more effectively may become more popular holiday destinations in the future despite their socio-economic conditions."

Avinash Adnani, managing director at Pluto Travels, highlighted several statistics about how the sector has been impacted by the pandemic that has pushed the industry into an unforeseen crisis. "As per a report by the World Economic Forum, international travel could be adversely impacted by up to 25 per cent this year, equivalent to a loss of three months of travel. The Economic Quarterly Report by RaboBank has forecast that the travel and tourism industry could take up to 10 months to recover after the outbreak is over," he said.

"There is no doubt that the industry has suffered huge losses, and the only way to recover from that would be to boost the traffic flow to increase occupancy rates on flights and hotels and ancillary industries. We expect the travel industry to come up with good deals earn the confidence and trust of travelllers," he said. Once the situation improves, he predicted that there will be a competition between destinations to lure customers back.

"As part of the initial response, we expect holiday packages to be much cheaper as all stakeholders concerned will try to win back the confidence of the customers."

He added: "Our experience indicates that most of the travellers in UAE prefer to take two vacations in a year with a longer break in the summer and perhaps a shorter break during the rest of the year. With recovery next year, this might come down to a single break. Also due to the overall financial impact, travellers might choose destinations which are closer and offer better value for money. Thus, we surely expect market to be flooded with bargain deals next year."

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