PATA: Prepare for delayed recovery

BANGKOK, 19 March 2020: In his latest “letter from the CEO”, Pacific Asia Travel Association’s president and CEO, Mario Hardy, cuts, through the clutter and noise surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak. He calls for calm suggesting even if we cannot see it there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I have spent the last week watching, listening and reading every possible news about Covid-19 in search of clarity.

“Honestly, all I have found is more confusion, with differing opinions changing daily and inconsistent messaging from some governments and local authorities.

“The constant noise causes anxiety. While we need to find a cure to Covid-19, we also need to find a cure to the current “info-demic” which is causing as much damage as the virus.

“Though it is essential to stay updated on the latest developments particularly in your community, it is important to heed the advice of reputable health experts and professionals, rather than rely on hearsay or other unreliable sources.

“I must stress how important it is to consider all factual data and information, and measure an appropriate and balanced response during times such as these.

“Leave it to the experts to provide you with the correct information and advice, and remove all the other noise and opinions. When in doubt, follow the recommendations laid out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Nevertheless, from all the information I received, what I do know is that as the world prepares itself to #flattenthecurve through social distancing, we the tourism industry need to prepare ourselves now for delayed recovery.

“Already in this early stage, tourism businesses are experiencing severe economic hardships, and some are struggling to stay afloat. A decade ago, financial analysts used to say that a business should have at least three months cash reserves, and later on, extended that idea to six months.

“However, the reality is that you should have at least one year of cash reserves. Those who have not built a decent reserve will most likely have to take some drastic actions in the near future such as cost containment, possible layoffs, or sale of assets.

“Those who have built substantial cash reserves can use this time to improve their back-office systems, complete outstanding projects, or soft experiment some new ideas and concepts. It is also a good time to strategise and prepare your business for recovery. I expect that when we see a speedy decline in cases globally and travel restrictions start to be lifted, the recovery will come fast as people will be keen to get a change of scenery.

“In the meantime, we all need to do our part and protect the health of our families, employees and the public. This may be a good time for your organisation to experiment with flexible working hours and work from home (WFH) policies to relieve some of the stress and anxiety caused by the risk of contamination.

“As travel restrictions are still in place, it may also be wise to do as Estonia Tourism has done and wish your prospective visitors to stay home for the time being and visit your destination at a later time. Inspire people and invite them to dream about the wonders of your destination.

“We may not see it yet, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We must stay calm, vigilant and put the safety and well-being of people first.”

PATA CEO Blog
Dr Mario Hardy,
Chief Executive Officer,
Pacific Asia Travel Association.

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