Wednesday, 03 June 2020 08:25

Travel trade unites to face post-COVID-19 challenge

Amidst unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel trade is moving to unite to create ‘one industry, one voice’, to better strengthen its lobbying and enhance future prospects.

In a welcome move, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Travel Operators (SLAITO) has invited three prominent other industry organisations to join in as associate members. They are the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), Association for Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET) and Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition and Event Organisers (SLAPCEO).Following the request they have agreed and joined the initiative.

“The objective of the move was to create ‘one industry, one voice’ in going forward,” SLAITO President Mahen Kariyawasam told the Daily FT.

He pointed out that there was a growing consensus amongst the stakeholders to formulate a strong industry body to stand for the interests of the entire tourism sector in one voice.

“In these trying times, we are looking at the possibilities of helping each other as well as the Government to overcome the challenges in going forward,” he added.

Kariyawasam also said that post-pandemic, travel will be changed completely.

“People will tend to make holiday reservations more through a travel agent rather than opting to book online post-COVID-19. We saw many free independent travellers (FIT) stranded in various parts of the world with no finance and assurance of return. Taking those into consideration, people will want to go via a travel agent for better support in an emergency situation. Companies will also have to look out-of-the-box new methods, as new ways of travel will come into play post-pandemic,” he pointed out.

SLAITO welcomed the Government’s decision to reopen the airport from 1 August, although noting that the country would have to adhere to the guidelines of World Travel Organisation (WTO), World Health Organisation (WHO), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Ministry of Health.

“We are now awaiting for the authorities to advise us on the new protocols in operating business in going forward,” he said.

The industry anticipates Chinese travellers will be the first to visit Sri Lanka post-lockdown, while looking at new markets. Traditional countries in the Europe will not turn up in the immediate future.

Kariyawasam said the drop in arrivals this year will be phenomenal, as most borders are still closed or partially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We expect at least 80% drop in arrivals compared to last year. Along with the pandemic, the economic crisis also has impacted many countries. Therefore, people around the world are also restricting their holidays and may also limit travel within the region,” he stressed.

However the low record of fatalities due to COVID-19 in the country, a lot of people are wanting to make Sri Lanka their post-pandemic holiday destination.

“We have already received a substantial number of inquiries from key European markets for reservations in December and January 2021,” Kariyawasam said.


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