In view of the Coronavirus outbreak, many countries have placed different rules and regulations such as travel restrictions, tightened airport security, and increased frequency of temperature screenings. They have all taken the necessary precautions to prevent further spread of the disease and the travel industry post-COVID19 will certainly be different.
On 26th May, Plug and Play Asia Pacific hosted a 3-day virtual Cross Border Showcase featuring an overview of the startups from our Fintech, Insurtech, Smart Cities, and Travel program as well as panel and keynote sessions. In this post, we will summarise the key takeaways from the corporate panel for the first day.
In this panel discussion, 2 distinguished speakers are invited to share their thoughts and perspectives:
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director, Macau Government Tourist Office
Dominic Mellor, Senior Investment Specialist, ADB Ventures
The panel is moderated by Mario Hardy, CEO of PATA
How different do you think the travel industry will be post-COVID19 and what will be the most visible changes?
“I think it’s going to be more difficult getting in and out of airports from destination to destination, and there will be a lot more friction involved,” said Dominic. Governments across different countries are expected to introduce policies and measures to ensure that incoming visitors are safe for entry. It is likely that we will see country-specific policies and increased coordination across different countries. The experience of getting from point A to point B, and getting through immigration and customs will be quite different. There could be increased transaction costs, which in turn will lead to a reduced frequency of travelers.
“At this point in time, in the case of Macau, people are a little bit cautious and the local residents are a little bit skeptical as to how quickly we should reopen tourism,” said Maria. We can see that governments across the globe are cautiously reopening certain sectors of their economy to maintain a balance between the sentiments of its local population, and the need for lifting travel restrictions.
What are the lessons learned from the stakeholders in Macau throughout the crisis so far?
The one thing that stands out is that the travel industry has to stick together in order to work out different solutions to weather the storm. It has been a very hard lesson learned for the world across all industries. These are hard and unprecedented times where the government had to resort to closing down the casinos, bars, along with other amenities but the industry has managed to stay together thus far. To help businesses cope with the situation, the government has also rendered aid in the form of assistance and subsidies. It has been a very deep learning curve but Maria believes that they will get through it together.
What advice would you give to small business owners in this difficult time?
Different types of businesses ranging from large corporations to small medium-sized businesses have different capacities to wideout this crisis. Based on the magnitude of this crisis, it is clear that SMEs are particularly vulnerable.
This crisis is global in nature and affects nearly every market, which makes it very difficult for businesses to plan ahead for this once in a lifetime crisis. However, one way for travel and hospitality companies to be better prepared for future pandemics could be to diversify its target audience and revenue streams in order to be less overly reliant on a particular market. In addition, governments can also consider providing disaster risk financing for SMEs to ensure that they are better equipped to deal with such crises in the future.
What are some of the innovations implemented in helping businesses reopen?
Some examples of the initiatives seen in Bangkok, Thailand include the use of QR codes to record entries and exits from businesses, and placing fiberglass between tables so that people can dine-in safely in restaurants. Instead of the usual tour groups at tourist attractions, operators are now resorting to local tours in the countryside to help generate income for local businesses. In terms of technology, we see the use of digitization and big data to conduct contact tracing in the event of a new COVID-19 case.
This crisis is more than just a health crisis. It is also an economic crisis where many small businesses are suffering due to reduced tourism. However, with the government’s help and the help of diversification, businesses will be able to overcome this crisis together.