Update on the Coronavirus: tourism solidarity

Dear PATA Members and Industry Colleagues,

Greetings from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Concerns regarding the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism industry are increasing daily and its growing impact is being felt by all industry stakeholders from both the public and private sector. There isn’t a day that goes by when COVID-19 is not mentioned in the news or on social media. At PATA, we are closely monitoring the situation on a daily basis via the real-time tracker developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

With cases in China still rising, many destinations and organisations across the Asia Pacific region are concerned about the financial impact on their business in 2020 and beyond, as they have relied heavily on China as a primary source market.

The number one question on everyone’s minds is, how long before we recover? This isn’t a simple question to answer as we have not yet seen the tipping point (i.e. the time when the number of new cases reduces day by day).

From past experiences (i.e. SARS), the industry began to show signs of recovery after approximately six months. However, there is a high risk that this time recovery may take longer. Why? Because all Chinese businesses in every sector are being financially impacted in ways that are almost unconceivable. It is likely that Chinese citizens may not be able to take as many overseas holidays later in the year and focus on making up for lost income.

While we encourage businesses and destinations to look at the domestic market and other source markets to fill the current void, we would also like to highlight the importance of showing messages of kindness and support to your respective partners and suppliers in China. Building and maintaining a close relationship with your partners in China during this difficult time is key to quicker recovery once this situation is behind us.

Already we are seeing some destinations like Thailand, Nepal and others showing compassion and kindness in their own respective ways. Some businesses are also extending refunds, letters of credit towards future bookings, and waiving late payment fees to assist their close partners and suppliers. Organisations should make good use of social media and build content to show their support during times such as these.

More than ever our industry needs to stand together, put our competitive interests aside and partner for a better tomorrow. This is a key theme for the Association this year in ‘Partnerships for Tomorrow’, and even more relevant with the current situation affecting all stakeholders across the region.

At PATA, we are also asking all travel and tourism organisations around the globe to appeal to their members and partners to show compassion and empathy to our fellow colleagues during this trying time. We must look for ways to support each other, particularly those most affected by the current situation such as our partners in China and SMEs across the region, as well as bring confidence back to the industry. Only through concerted efforts by both the public and private sector can we face the complex challenge ahead of us.

As always, we encourage all members and industry colleagues to remain calm but stay vigilant and take proper precautions as necessary. It is also important to remember to make sure to get your information from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) website and consider all facts before measuring an appropriate response during this time.

If you will be attending ITB Berlin, do join us for our seminar on ‘Destination Resilience and Recovery – facing Global Challenges’, where we will be discussing the impact of the current coronavirus outbreak in China. To register for the event, please RSVP by Wednesday, March 6th at https://forms.gle/N5DuFS3zByt8LyVd8.

Furthermore, we would also like to invite you to join us for a roundtable discussion over breakfast with Tourism Safety Expert, Peter Tarlow, on Thursday, March 5 from 7.45am – 10.00am, titled ‘COVID-19: Coronavirus Discussion at ITB’. Participation is free for members of PATA, ICTP, LGBTMPA and ATB, as well as qualified journalists. Register for the event at https://safertourism.com/coronavirus/.

We will continue to provide any updates as necessary and, as always, we are here to offer all of our members and industry colleagues our support and assistance as needed.

Till next time,

Dr. Mario Hardy,
Chief Executive Officer,
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)