By Hanah Tabios
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat expressed her confidence in rebuilding the country’s local tourism industry with the help of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), whose primary initiative is the recovery of the global travel and tourism industry amid the unprecedented crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WTTC is a private global forum composed of over 200 chief executive officers (CEOs), chairpersons, and presidents of the world’s leading travel and tourism companies, such as aviation, hotels, and cruises. The forum aims to advise and support efforts to move the sector forward for around 30 years.
On Tuesday, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Tourism Promotions Board (TBP) partnered with WTTC in a webinar titled “The Future of Travel,” which brought together some preeminent speakers in the segments of aviation, tourism investments, and accommodation to discuss the major impacts of the ongoing global health crisis in the tourism industry, as well as on how concerned stakeholders can recover from the wrath of the global health crisis.
“The WTTC has worked with the World Economic Forum, the World Health Organization, and key stakeholders in coming up with recommendations to minimize the impact of past pandemics in the industry. Acknowledging this fact, we are definitely certain that their insights will be greatly beneficial to our local tourism players,” said the country’s tourism secretary, who delivered the opening remarks at the webinar participated in not only by experts, but around 20,000 viewers across the globe whose lives, dependent on the industry, have been heavily affected by COVID-19.
WTTC’s recovery principles
London-based WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara focused on discussing some key principles to help the industry recover. Though, admittedly, she said it might take some time, world leaders must note that there should be a global coordinated approach to re-establish effective operations, which include the removal of travel barriers and the re-opening of borders.
She said it was imperative to add health components and combine the latest technology, as well as necessary protections and protocols, to enhance a seamless traveler journey and experience.
As the world continues to struggle for the coronavirus vaccine, she said there must be an integration of testing, contact tracing, and end to end traveler journey touchpoints with airports, airlines, hotels, among others.
Once the vaccine is available, Guevara suggests the integration of a possible digital health stamp to the traveler information prior to the trip.
She also noted that the implementation of global protocols or standards defined by the travel and tourism private sector, health experts, and public sector can help gain back travelers’ confidence.
But she stressed that considering the economic impact of the pandemic, financial aid and promotion are critical during the recovery phase.
Optimistic about recovery
Craig Smith, president and managing director of Asia Pacific Marriott International, also shared his optimism that the industry would “certainly recover.”
Currently, Marriott International has six operating hotels, with at least additional 21 construction projects, in the Philippines.
Smith even emphasized that Asia would recover faster than any part of the world, though it would happen in different segments and different geographies.
Shirley Tan, CEO of the famed Jakarta-based Rajawali Property Group, also said that there would be increased collaboration among the private and public sectors as the world continued to gear up toward the “new normal”.
Meanwhile, Puyat called for the support of all sectors to ensure that health and safety protocols were in place to regain travelers confidence.
“There is more to tourism than just counting the numbers of arriving tourists. We are in the business of selling destinations so communities will thrive. We market adventure so our people will be employed. We promote culture as a way of preserving our heritage. The concept of tourism is deeply embedded in our consciousness, and I would like to believe that this is what makes our industry resilient from all the challenges, even the toughest one that we are about to overcome,” the secretary said, adding that the challenges brought by the health crisis would not deter the department’s mission to ensure that the industry is seamless, secure, safe, inclusive and sustainable.