In order to keep the industry professionals well informed of all the initiatives taken for recovery post COVID. TRAVTALK conducted two digital conclaves with some of the eminent personalities in the industry. It also entailed the commendable leadership steps taken to open the country for international visitors.
HE Khalid Jassim Al Midfa, Chairman – Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority
The new normal in my opinion will be a temporary situation for travel and tourism, not for other industries, based on the reports by international organisations like UNWTO it will soon come back to normal. The physical presence of a human being in a destination will not be replaced by any digital technology and I think travel will still be placed as it used to maybe like 50 years ago, especially with the airlines coming up. Before that people used to visit the nearby places as tourists so tourism has always existed in human life. We will need a place to go to relax and get away from a busy life, so tourism will come back to normal. What we have to do now and what we are working on in the UAE is that we have come up with a lot of precautionary measures and guidelines that are being monitored very strictly by our team of inspectors. They are working hand-in-hand with the private sector. We have always been very close to our partners in the private sector and are working hand-in-hand with them as they are our strategic partners, and at this period of time our relationship has further strengthened.
Suman Billa, Director, Technical Cooperation & Silk Road, UNWTO
The MENA region has world class infrastructure and a very strong aviation sector. In 2003 we had the SARS crisis which dropped tourism by 0.4% then in 2009 the global economic crisis which resulted the tourism industry to drop by 4% but today we are looking at a drop from 58% to 78% now this is unprecedented and there is no experience for us to cope with this. To my mind there is no business contingency plan or a government support programme that can handover to tourism sector to come out of it without any pain. At the same time we must understand that tourism all over the world are in difficult position and in order to sustain that we do not have the luxury to wait for a vaccine to come.
Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer – Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority
We have gone through unprecedented times and the tourism industry has been the worst hit industry globally not just in the UAE. I’m very optimistic about tourism especially in United Arab Emirates. If you think about it in the UAE Currently 12 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from tourism and hospitality. Coming from an oil rich nation that is a significant part of its contribution; 750,000 employees in the United Arab Emirates rely on hospitality and tourism. I was so proud to see that the United Arab Emirates was one of the first countries to open globally and be able to welcome international tourists to the destination. For us being a developing destination we were able to fare very well during the pandemic.
Inputs by Shehara Rizly