BANGKOK, 23 December 2020: Our wish for 2021 is that it will be safe and successful for all our readers and that the arrival of vaccines will be a game-changer; a lifesaver for everyone.
Financial challenges remain
It looks like the light at the end of the tunnel that we have hoped and prayed for during 2020 will shine soon for the travel business once widespread vaccine distribution takes place. The most challenging year for everyone in tourism is now almost behind us. Ahead of us, there remains the immediate challenge of financial survival and recovery while at the same time, the need to embark on a path to sustainability that will be in tune with climate change goals and the need to reduce carbon emissions to meet a fast-approaching deadline.
Take back the reins
Travel associations across Southeast Asia will need to take back the reins to ensure a safe return for travel managed from within the industry rather than by governments. Associations, both national and regional, must ensure tourism is part of the solution or governments will continue to apply harsh measures and controls throughout 2021 as well as introduce suspect policies that will damage tourism in the long-run. The travel trade must be wary of government motives particularly in states controlled by the military.
The tourism performance in Southeast Asia will fall short of the 2019 peak, possibly for five years or more. Full recover remains a decade away. Talk of governments deliberately stifling tourism growth in a post-Covid-19 era is premature and irrelevant. Governments may want to avoid a repeat of the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but applying the brakes on tourism is not the answer to reduce risk exposure from a dominant industry. (Thailand’s tourism represents almost 20% of the GDP and there are voices suggesting the reliance on travel must be slimmed down).
Be a force for change
It’s up to travel associations in ASEAN to be assertive players and to assume the role of a vital lobby that will guide tourism across the region in a manner that governments will respect. Associations cannot sit on the fence being politically correct. Broadcasting messages on webinar sessions is just not enough. Members expect far more for their annual dues. They want leadership that speaks out and is not afraid to offend governments if they have got it wrong. But it is not too late for travel trade associations in the region to take up the challenge and make their voice heard loud and clear on issues such as health and climate change. The alternative is to be ignored by ASEAN’s governments and found irrelevant and a waste of time by association members.
Back with the news
TTR Weekly takes a break from 24 December 2020 through to 4 January 2021 when our daily news alerts will resume once more. Best wishes for the festive season and a Happy New Year from the TTR Weekly team.