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T3 News Network

T3 News Network

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry has changed the way businesses have to function and manage their operation. FICCI & Google have designed an online educational ‘Travel MSME Knowledge Series’ especially for the MSMEs in the sector.

The Webinar was launched by Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism on August 7, 2020. The 4-day Webinar Knowledge Series commencing on August 7 will be held thereafter every Friday (14th, 21st, 28th) in August from 4-5 PM. The objective of the Series is to educate the travel MSMEs on how to use the power of digital to navigate these uncertain times.

The webinar series will help the travel MSME offline players to adopt technology and use the power of the internet to minimise the disruption in a digital-first world. The training will be provided free by experts from Google and will be telecast live on YouTube for registered delegates.

The Series will focus on the various aspects of leveraging cloud and technology to build a scalable digital business and enhance customer experience. It will also discuss on evolving consumer trends in light of COVID-19 & what they mean for Travel businesses and educate on how to attract new customers with Google My Busines sand. The educational series will also cover the best UI/UX practices to enhance user experiences on mobile websites and many more.

FICCI will provide the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and online delivery platform for the series and Google will provide the content and trainers for the program. The partnership is envisaged to create an avenue for Travel professionals to create innovative ways and digitally market their products and reach out to their existing and potential customers.

Etihad Airways in cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has transported 16 tonnes of aid from the government of the United Arab Emirates to Lebanon.

The aid was flown in by an Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner on 6 August, following an explosion at Beirut’s port earlier this week.

In recent months, the United Arab Emirates aid programme supported by Etihad Airways, has also assisted more than 1 million medical workers worldwide by supplying personal protective equipment (PPE), medical and food aid in support of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five Star hotel 'Chandy's Windy Woods Munnar' has received the 'Best Luxury Hotel' awards in India by Traveler’s Choice Award 2020 by TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor ranked Chandy's Windy Woods Munnar as 'First' in India amongst the best 25 luxury hotels in India. The hotel also ranked ninth in Asia and '17th’ amongst the Best 25 hotels in the world. “We are humbled by this proud recognition of the great Indian hospitality on a global platform,” Nibu James, General Manager, Chandy’s Windy Woods Munnar, informed.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has partnered with Tripoto to launch a microsite within Tripoto’s website. This is part of its continuing efforts to keep Singapore in the minds of the Indian audience, even as the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled outbound travel.

The microsite is a one-stop guide for Indian travellers with content that encourages them to “Rediscover Now, Travel Later”.  One of the key content features of the microsite is the ‘[email protected]’ which invites the audience to explore the virtual experiences of some of the best attractions of Singapore and tourist offerings. There is also a collection of edutainment series ‘Try this at home, Tips from Singapore’ which features various Singaporean personalities demonstrating how to explore or further develop one’s passions in the comfort of one’s home, inspired by Singapore’s diverse people, talent and stories.

To add an element of fun that will appeal to children and the young at heart, the microsite has a section – ‘[email protected]’ where audience can have a hand at some of the interactive games with Merli, a character illustration of Merlion, the tourism icon of Singapore. The microsite will over time be showcasing how various tourism businesses in Singapore are preparing to welcome back business and embracing the “SG Clean” certification programme in maintaining high standards of hygiene, sanitation and response measures.

Speaking about this digital initiative with Tripoto, GB Srithar, Regional Director – India, Middle East & South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said, “Although travel restrictions are still in place, it is important for destination brands to continue with engaging consumers creatively and staying connected. Over the last few years, the STB has increasingly used digital marketing in our destination promotion efforts. We are happy to collaborate on this endeavor - a first of its kind microsite by a National Tourism Organisation on the Tripoto’s platform. ”

Commenting about the same, Michael Pargal Lyngdoh, Co-Founder at Tripoto added, “We are excited to partner once again with the Singapore Tourism Board and launch a microsite to showcase the exciting experiences awaiting the Indian traveler in Singapore. COVID-19 has paused all our travel plans but it is a great time to explore and plan future holidays for when the restrictions are lifted. The microsite has a plethora of information, videos, articles and photos that will introduce our users to Singapore if they haven’t been before and renew their interest in visiting the constantly evolving metropolis if they have. There is something for everyone in Singapore and we have created the platform for people to choose experiences based on their interest. There are immersive videos to transport you in the section [email protected], engaging games in [email protected], a place to join a community of like-minded travellers and much more content to discover. The safety of our users is of primary concern and the site will feature all the latest information on safe smart travel.”

Madhya Pradesh Tourism launched a campaign “#IntezaarKhatamHua” to build the confidence and trust amongst the travellers and to keep the audience engaged during the Monsoon season by featuring the major monsoon tourism attractions of the destinations like Amarkantak, Panchmarhi, Mandu, Orchha, Tamia, Bhedaghat, National Parks, .

5-6 days caravan road trips have been prepared from Bhopal and Indore, travel influencers will visit the various destinations of Madhya Pradesh as per the travel itinerary designed to promote the destinations during Monsoon. Itinerary starting from Bhopal will cover Bhopal, Amargarh falls, Bhimbetka, Tawa, Madai, Pchmarhi, Tamia, Patalkot, Pnch and from Indore the destinations covered are Indore, Patalpani, Choral Dam, Jam Gate, Vanchu Point, Janapav, Mandu, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Sailani. The influencers will travel to these destinations in a caravan of Madhya Pradesh Tourism, so that they can have a comfortable journey while enjoying the enchanting landscapes of the State.

The trip will be documented as a Travelogue by both the influencers. The influencers will post their individual blogs through their pages. A compiled film of both the influencers will be released on the MP Tourism social media handles. Throughout their trip across the state, as they are shooting their travelogue, the influencers will carry placards with #IntezaarKhatamHua written on it and they will click pictures along with it. These photos will populate the MP Tourism SM pages.

After the release of the blog, the influencers will create a “My Top 5 moments from the Heart of Incredible India” - a 5 minute video where they will recount their top 5 moments of the trip which will be combined with snaps and video bytes with a narration by the influencer.

MP Tourism looks forward to boost morale and bring back the confidence in the tourism sector and make them aware that the entire tourist destinations of Madhya Pradesh is fully prepared and ready to welcome the domestic tourists. Madhya Pradesh is also offering tour packages to the tourists that are specially designed keeping in mind safe travel, stay, and excursion for prevention during pandemic. In order to facilitate smooth travel, the board has come up with weekend and package trips from adjoining cities with all safety measures that are required at the destination.

In order to tap the domestic tourism market, State Tourism Departments need to come forward and work with utmost synergy. This was the concluding message of the recently organized Tourism E-Conclave by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) that brought Tourism Ministers from 6 states on a digital platform along with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to discuss about the ways and means of re-starting tourism in the country.

Speaking about the resumption of tourism, Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India said, “While we are going through extremely challenging times for tourism and hospitality, it has given us an opportunity to dive deep and delve in Incredible India, which earlier focused a lot on the inbound market, but somewhere we were not exploring it both as travelers and also business opportunities. It is now a huge opportunity and a challenge on how to pitch the products of India to the Indians. The whole narrative that the Prime Minister has built about Atma Nirbharta can be seen at various levels. This is not an inward-looking view, but we should also develop our own domestic tourism.”

Brar opined that there needs to be synergies between the states. “There should be a seamless movement of travellers. It’s a tricky time, but soon we will be in a time where there is more stability. We are in discussion with all states. Neighbouring states must have synergies to develop packages. The protocols are in place and we need to do some more work. There should be a harmony amongst all states and rules shouldn’t be very different. We also need to instill confidence amongst travellers. We are somewhere failing in showcasing the unexplored beauty of our nation,” she added.

Madhya Pradesh is now looking to develop the state as a unique destination for spiritual tourism. The state is looking to setup facilities to enhance spiritual experiences.

Usha Thakur, Minister Tourism, Culture & Adhyatm, Govt of Madhya Pradesh said, “Covid-19 has surely impacted the entire globe; tourism has been the most affected. Madhya Pradesh has done a lot of meetings to restart tourism and restore this segment. We will be focusing on rural tourism now where we can generate employment and tourists can get a unique experience. We also want to develop Madhya Pradesh as a spiritual destination for the domestic market. We will arrange facilities for meditation, yoga, Vedic library and a lot of elements which will give a holistic spiritual experience.”

Gujarat has close to 1600 kms of coastline, which is still now developed and promoted for tourism. The state which has been successful in promoting the Rann of Kutch has now started looking at the coastal circuit. Speaking about the plans Vasanbhai Ahir, Tourism Minister of State, Govt of Gujarat, “Gujarat is a tourist-friendly state, and there are several iconic places to visit in Gujarat, all of which are steeped in a certain charm and history. We have a long coastline and we are now focusing to develop this circuit. We have various facets of tourism in Gujarat, a lot of unexplored destinations which we want to promote. we have something for all kind of travellers. The new Statue of Unity is attracting travellers from throughout the globe and also is a huge employment generator. We will surely look for a way to promote the destination despite the challenges of covid-19.”

Kerala is keen to work with neighboring states to enhance interstate tourism. The state government is also looking at setting up schemes to support reinstate the tourism industry.  “Kerala Tourism will work together with other state tourism departments so that a tourist travelling from one state to another has a hassle-free experience. We expect to welcome guests in the next one or two months. We are starting off by reviving domestic tourism, first within our own state, followed by other states. An action plan for the revival of the tourism sector is being drawn up and several support schemes are under the consideration of the Kerala Government, including assistance to tourism stakeholders and employees. We are sure we’ll defeat all odds and make a remarkable comeback. The strong synergy between the private and public sector will be a key driving force on our road to recovery,” Kadakampally Surendran, Tourism Minister, Government of Kerala, said.

One of the less explored destinations, Chhattisgarh has now increased its tourism budget by over 70 per cent to promote the segment. The state is also incentivizing and providing subsidy for the development and promotion of tourism. Tamradhwaj Sahu, Minister of Public Works, Department Home, Jail, Dharmik Nyas and Dharmasv, Tourism, Government of Chhattisgarh said, “We have a lot of tourism opportunities in Chhattisgarh. Our CM has taken a keen interest on developing tourism segment. We have increased our tourism budgets by 70 per cent and we are also giving an industry status to this segment. The best way to overcome the setbacks in the tourism industry which has been suffered due to the COVID-19 is to promote local tourism so that local tourists are attracted. We will focus on developing water sports at all the prominent dams and water bodies of the state to attract tourism in Chhattisgarh. We have also developed a lot of tourism infrastructure to provide a better experience for travellers. The forest areas which we have, and tribal tourism is something unique which travellers should explore. We have also announced a lot of subsidy to promote this sector. We are also looking to develop mining tourism.”

Odisha has picked up as a leisure tourism destination in the recent years. The state earlier known for its spiritual destination, has various attractions which are still less explored. The state is now looking to waive-off various charges to ease the burden on tourism segment.

Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi, Minister of Tourism, Odia Language, Literature & Culture, Government of Odisha added, “The pandemic has hit the backbone of the tourism industry in Odisha. We are focussing on the completion of development work and product enhancement in the state. To encourage the hospitality industry, the government has decided to waive-off the fixed charges on electricity and the bar license fee for the hotels in the state. This Industry needs energy and synergy to move ahead.”

With tourism being a huge employment generator, Karnataka is looking to bring the segment back on track by initiating a new campaign. The state believes that tourism will bounce back soon and has also announced its protocols and SOPs for safe tourism.

CT Ravi, Minister of Tourism, Kannada and Culture, Youth Empowerment & Sports, Government of Karnataka, “The tourism sector is an important economic driver for Karnataka and the sector will emerge from this crisis stronger, resilient, and better. The government of Karnataka has launched ‘Love your native’ campaign, which seeks to ensure the livelihood of those dependent solely on tourism and assure the people that with appropriate safety and hygiene in place, a slow return to normalcy is possible.”

As borders re-open and travel restrictions ease gradually, convenient and reliable pre-departure COVID-19 testing solutions are already being made mandatory by some countries, while others are considering implementing them for all incoming travellers to ease the pressure of on-arrival testing. 

To meet this demand and as part of an additional service offering, VFS Global has launched an online appointment booking service for COVID-19 RT-PCR Sample Collection in Delhi, Kochi and Mumbai. This service is offered in association with a network of certified medical laboratories approved by the Government of India and having all due accreditations for swab collection for COVID-19.

Customers in Delhi, Kochi and Mumbai can book appointments on VFS Global’s website and provide samples at designated associate medical laboratories from 10 August 2020.  ‘At Your Doorstep’ services are also offered in Mumbai, Delhi and Kochi, that enables sample collection from the safety and comfort of a customer’s home.

Samples are collected by trained medical professionals from associate medical laboratories and the reports directly sent with full confidentiality to the registered email address of the customer.  Similar offerings will be extended to customers in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Pune in the coming weeks.

 The COVID-19 RT-PCR Sample Collection service is open for all and is not limited to travellers. The service can be availed by those who may or may not be exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms (strictly as per local regulations of various states), and only with a doctor’s prescription in Delhi and Kochi.

A dedicated help desk is also provided for VFS Global customers next to select VFS Global Centres to assist with this service.

Speaking about the service, Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Americas, said, “We believe a convenient and reliable pre-departure COVID-19 sample collection/testing solution can become a catalyst in the recovery process of international travel by providing an assurance to destination countries, airlines and travellers and by becoming a major risk-mitigator. Countries might even consider making this mandatory for incoming travellers to ease the pressure of testing upon arrival.” 

The COVID-19 sample collection service is not related to the visa application submission process and has no influence on VFS Global’s visa application process or on the visa decision, which remains the sole prerogative of the concerned government. Customers are advised to check latest travel advisories from the destination country for information on international travel.

The sample collection service itself is provided by independent third-party service providers which is not owned by or related to VFS Global. VFS Global’s role is limited to assisting customers with appointment booking for the test.

With a growing focus on the use of technology to transform the world’s business ecosystem amid the global pandemic, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has partnered with Microsoft to further streamline data-driven services offered to stakeholders, enhance the e-learning platform for Dubai College of Tourism (DCT) and adopt an innovative approach towards showcasing the city as a must-visit destination.

The wide scope of collaboration between Dubai Tourism and Microsoft is largely based on leveraging the Azure cloud platform, which provides a range of services from computing to networking, databases to analytics and artificial intelligence designed to help organisations run their digital systems and processes more efficiently.

Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, commented: “As we plan for future scenarios, cloud based solutions have emerged as a crucial element of Dubai Tourism’s digital transformation strategy because of the secure, sustainable and scalable nature of the technology.  The diversity of our partnership with Microsoft will add to our efforts to embed world class technology solutions to our business systems and further enhance the scope of cutting-edge digital services that we provide our stakeholders in real-time, to help ensure Dubai stays ahead of the curve and also maintain its position at the forefront of the world’s leading travel destinations.”

Driven by the need to make data processing faster and aligning with its vision of progressing from data analytics to artificial intelligence products, Dubai Tourism became one of the first government entities to migrate multiple online dashboards to the state-of-the-art Azure architecture developed by Microsoft within the UAE cloud regions including a dashboard that regularly tracks and provides data on visitor arrivals from key source markets. These dashboards will be hosted on Microsoft’s Middle East cloud regions, based in the UAE, that provides organizations with access to scalable, highly available, and resilient cloud services while maintaining data residency, security and compliance needs.

“Microsoft Azure has been at the heart of the company’s efforts to form several strategic partnerships across UAE’s public and private businesses and accelerate their digital transformation agendas by migrating to the cloud,” said Sayed Hashish, General Manager, Microsoft UAE. “Our partnership with Dubai Tourism enables their platform to seek better customer engagement, empower its workforce,  optimise operations and reinvent products and services. This is made possible by our two cloud regions in the UAE serving customers across the region to innovate and grow.”

Following the airline’s resumption of services from London Heathrow to Hong Kong, New York JFK, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Barbados, Virgin Atlantic has unveiled its planned passenger flying restart to India.

All customers eligible under the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs as per the Air Bubble scheme will be able to travel onboard Virgin Atlantic’s direct services to London Heathrow and US.

The airline plans to operate three flights a week from Delhi to London Heathrow from 2nd September. Mumbai service restarts from 17th September and will operate four flights a week to London. 

Both the destinations will provide connections to New York JFK and will operate on 787-9 Dreamliner.

Alex McEwan, Commercial Manager India, Virgin Atlantic commented: “This year marks 20 years of flying between UK and India and we’re delighted to resume our passenger services to this beautiful country. We know many of our customers will be excited to reunite with friends and family and we are looking forward to welcoming them onboard, taking to the skies safely in true Virgin Atlantic style.

The health and wellbeing of our customers and crew remains our number one priority and our teams have been working tirelessly to implement new measures and evolve our experience so customers can feel confident to book and fly with us. This includes social distancing at the airport and onboard wherever possible, meticulous cleaning of the aircraft and individual Health Packs for all customers, containing medical grade face masks, hand sanitizer and surface wipes.”

The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19) has devastated the world economy and taken the whole world into its severity. All the major economies of the world are brought to a deadlock situation. Tourism is one of the worst affected of all major economic sectors. Due to the imposition of travel restrictions and slump in demand among travellers, the tourism sector is witnessing all-time low hit. Travel is standstill, fear is gearing up, and the future is uncertain.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a 22 per cent fall in International Tourist Arrivals (ITAs) during the first quarter of 2020. It could decline by 60-80 per cent over the whole year as per the latest report of UNWTO.

The UNWTO Panel of Experts Survey indicates the sign of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021. Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than the international demand, and within it, leisure travel is said to recover more quickly than business travel.

In the upcoming months, there is a sign of an increase in travel and tourism activities. Now, travel and tourism companies are focusing more than ever before on digital or social media channels to directly connect with their customers as part of their marketing strategy. No one had anticipated the way 2020 chucked out. Almost all the brands and marketers are making an adjustment to their original strategies to leverage business profit, customer empathy, company’s mission and vision and agility for building brand’s connection with the customers, even when they are at home during lockdowns and for this, they are giving more emphasis to various social media channels viz Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and the like. Customers behaviour has changed dramatically after the outbreak of COVID-19and will continue the same over the next few months. Skift (a media company that furnishes news, research and marketing services for the travel industry) used BCV’s datashows that 40 per cent of social media users are questioning on property and destination reopening instead of asking for cancellations. Penland analytics (a marketing research firm) says that organisations that opened well after a crisis and continue communications with its audiences see a 20 per cent increase in its brand value compared to those who reopened poorly. Building trust with the customers in the new normal is the first and foremost priority of travel and tourism personnel. Marketing personnel have changed their social media marketing strategies from building brand awareness to communicate about safety, from showcasing their product to caring for the society and community.

Driving demand in the new normal for the travel and tourism industry is the biggest challenge for the marketers. Alvin Jacobs, AVP-Sales and Marketing, Cinnamon Resorts, in the Maldives, elaborated a four-phase process for driving tourists to the destinations back. The first phase includes assistance for rebooking and refund, changing the social media content and monitoring real-time as extenuating negative reviews. The second phase encourages customers to share photos and to grant a two-week stay voucher with the promotion of health standards and safety measures taken by the brand. The third phase includes allowing guests flexibility on booking terms and plans to stay anytime until October 2021. The fourth phase would start when the destinations open up, and people will be able to travel to the destinations.

During a crisis, communication plays a key role for businesses to run and individuals to survive. In the plight of COVID-19, social media is playing a pivotal role for both companies and individuals. For leveraging travel and tourism, marketing personnel need to amend their existing social media marketing tactics. They must give more emphasis on building customer trust by providing adequate, accurate and timely information, ensuring them for their safety and security, enhancing customer service and satisfaction by responding to their complaints more sincerely and genuinely and reshaping their offering in a more customised way.

In a nutshell, travel and tourism companies need to revive their business strategies in such a way that more emphasis should be given on being empathetic and responsible rather than merely profitable. Social media serves this purpose by reaching out to audiences and ensuring their safety and security while offering travel offerings, customising travel plans, building trust by furnishing accurate, adequate and timely information.

(This article is written by Professor Sheeba Hamid, Coordinator (Master of Tourism and Travel Management), Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University and Mohd Azhar, UGC-Junior Research Fellow, Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University. The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the authors.) 

 

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