Expert anticipates more unemployment and a substantial increase in cancelled reservations
Given the limitations placed on the tourism industry by the restrictions imposed by the new executive order to mitigate the coronavirus, the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA) foresees another dramatic drop in reservations and more job losses in the sector.
Last Friday, Gov. Wanda Vázquez banned once again recreational beach activities and limited casinos and swimming pools to 30 percent of their total occupation after the P.R. Department of Health reported a spike in COVID-19 cases. PRHTA President-elect Joaquín Bolívar III affirmed that these limitations are illogical and make it impossible for this economic sector to recover.
"We don't understand the reasoning behind the restrictions they place on us. In the hotels, there have been no outbreaks or sick employees. We have extreme health protocols. The limitations of the facilities prevent hotels from having a recovery," he stated.
Bolívar, who is also the president of the San Juan Water Beach Club, underscored that the drop in reservations that has been registered since the announcement of Executive Order 2020-080 last Friday has been in double digits and that the impact has been more noticeable in hotels and inns in the metropolitan area.
To date, the hotel industry is 80 percent below the business volume registered at the same time last year. However, with the previous economic reopening they had begun to register an advance in occupation, mainly during the weekends.
"Just when we were registering a slight improvement, they limit us again. It wasn't that we were doing well—because no hotel is making money—but there was some money flowing in on the weekends and we had started hiring employees again," Bolívar said.
Rise in Unemployment
Bolívar—who took the baton of the presidency of the PRHTA board of directors a week ago—pointed out that if the order limiting the offers had not been implemented, the trend reflected that they would register an approximate 10 percent increase in occupancy for January 2021. The high season for local tourism is usually during the months of November to March.
"There is no projection of high season this year. This will be a very sad period. We had started hiring again and they are people who, unfortunately, in the middle of Christmas, will be unemployed again. Even sadder is that the additional federal benefits for these people have already ended. It is a very sad scene," he stated.
It is estimated that tourism activity on the island represents more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, of which approximately 80 percent have been laid off or furloughed. The labor law establishes that after three months of temporary suspension, automatic dismissal proceeds, and after six months, employers are not obliged to rehire them.
"We are aware of the fiscal situation of the industry. Here we all have losses as a result of the pandemic. That is undeniable. This is worse than what the industry experienced after the 9/11 attacks. It is the worst situation we have faced in the last three decades," the PRHTA president-elect added.
Changes in the Tourist Profile
Bolívar understands that airlines play an important role in the island's recovery as a destination; nevertheless, he warned that because of price drops air tickets to Puerto Rico, there has been a change in the profile of the tourists who come to the island, who do not necessarily contribute to the industry's recovery.
"Very low rates are being seen to Puerto Rico. Roundtrip tickets from $34. That causes problems at the destination and does not contribute to economic recovery. These travelers do not necessarily stay in hotels and if they do, they do not consume anything inside the inn," he explained.
"These travelers come with a limited budget and do not seek to consume in the properties, nor in the restaurants that supply service to the hotels. It is not that cheap tickets make us the destination of the cheap, but you do not see the glamor that was seen before in the profile of the traveler who visited us. The impact of these visits is less," he added.
Call for More DMO Funding
Bolívar also opined that it is necessary for Puerto Rico to have the necessary resources to face the competition when tourist destinations return to operating normally. Thus, he called on the government to allocate more money to the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Discover Puerto Rico.
According to data from the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), the DMO currently has a budget of $25 million from room tax collections, of which the organization allocates an approximate 70 percent to marketing, promotion, and sales strategies; 22 percent for payroll expenses, and 8 percent for administrative expenses.
"The government has to allocate additional funds for the island's marketing. They have not been spending on public works, nor have they paid their debt in recent years. The funds are there and what needs to be done is request a special allocation from the Financial Oversight [and Management] Board. The DMO is key to our recovery. The return on what is invested in promotion is a lot," Bolívar said.
Lastly, Bolívar voiced his opposition to the PRTC becoming an office of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC). “The key to our recovery is a DMO managing destination marketing and a PRTC managing tourism standards and development. This is the perfect formula ”, he specified.
Today (November 16 2020) , Expedia® released its 2021 Travel Trends Report, sharing predictions and hacks for travellers for the year ahead. By analyzing Expedia.ca data and insights from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the report aims to arm travellers with the information and inspiration they need to make smart travel decisions coming out of an unprecedented year.
The report found that Canadians are booking their trips an average of 22 days before the vacation begins, compared to an average of 34 days in 2019.
Meanwhile, refundable trips were booked 10 per cent more frequently compared to 2020 and private vacations spots -- vacation homes, cottages and house boats -- were more popular than ever.
According to the report, Canadians are planning to embrace the winter like never before as four of the top 20 most searched destinations for 2021 are Canadian ski resort towns, while another three are more mild areas of British Columbia.
“As travellers within Canada, we will learn to travel differently, learn to experience winter at home,” Zajac said. “There are a lot of great things to experience across our country. Yes, it's cooler, but there are still a lot of things that we can do. Bundle up, get outside and see.”
That said, Canadians still have warmer climates on the brain, with 13 of the top 20 most popular destinations, including the top five, coming from warmer climates.
Zajac said this is a combination of Canadians’ optimism for how the next few months of the pandemic may go and a pent-up wanderlust from people longing for an international vacation.
“People are interested in -- when it is safe and when they're able to get away -- heading to a warm destination and particularly an island, whether it's somewhere in the Caribbean or whether it's even somewhere further like Bali,” Zajac said.
Priorities for Canadian Travellers in 2021
Flexibility isn't a "nice-to-have", it's required: In 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for travellers, who booked refundable rates nearly 10 percent more often this year compared to last. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever. Expedia.ca lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable bookings were nearly 15 percent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
Health and safety advancements are essential: In 2021, concerns about staying safe while travelling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning, from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on Expedia.ca, which includes enhanced cleaning measures, contactless check-in, social distancing and other guest safety considerations.
Shorter booking windows for travel plans: In 2019, the average Canadian traveler booked flights around 34 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window shortened to 22 days, where it remains. The new, shorter planning cycle illustrates how travellers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment and ongoing uncertainty. This is a trend we see with lodging as well. Last minute bookings during the summer were on the rise with around half of Canadian travellers booking trips 0-7 days out, an increase from previous years.3
Growth in alternative accommodation options: While the most popular lodging type in 2020 was hotels, this year certain alternative property types were more popular than in previous years. Specifically, this is the case for: private vacation homes, cottages, glamping experiences, treehouses and house boats. When looking to book a stay, the data shows that the lowest average daily rates are usually found on Mondays.
The Next Big Trip: Top-Searched Destinations for 2021 and Beyond
While nearby getaways and road trips are likely to remain popular as travellers navigate the ongoing realities of life amid a pandemic, search data5 proves that Canadian wanderlust remains strong. More specifically, it seems vacation-deprived Canadians dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories:
Sun and Beach Seekers. Looking at the top 20 most-searched destinations, over half are islands in the southern hemisphere or those offering a warm and sunny beach escape. After a year like 2020, it's not hard to imagine why so many travellers want to escape to an island the next chance they get. Typically, Canadians are used to trading in their winter coats for their summer clothes based on general seasonality, but of course this has been a year like no other, though this hasn't stopped travellers from staying inspired and dreaming of warmer weather.
Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum (#1)
Puerto Vallarta (#2)
Punta Cana (#8)
French Polynesia (#11)
Turks and Caicos (#16)
St. Lucia (#17)
Top searched destinations based on lodging interest on Expedia.ca between Jan 1, 2020 – Sept 12, 2020 for travel in 2021.
Frequent-flying “‘super emitters” who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused half of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018, according to a study.
Airlines produced a billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they caused, the researchers estimated. The analysis draws together data to give the clearest global picture of the impact of frequent fliers.
Only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018 and 4% flew abroad. US air passengers have by far the biggest carbon footprint among rich countries. Its aviation emissions are bigger than the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia, the study reports.
The researchers said the study showed that an elite group enjoying frequent flights had a big impact on the climate crisis that affected everyone.
They said the 50% drop in passenger numbers in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic should be an opportunity to make the aviation industry fairer and more sustainable. This could be done by putting green conditions on the huge bailouts governments were giving the industry, as had happened in France.
Global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis was growing fast before the Covid-19 pandemic, with emissions jumping by 32% from 2013-18. Flight numbers in 2020 have fallen by half but the industry expects to return to previous levels by 2024.
“If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming,” said Stefan Gössling at Linnaeus University in Sweden, who led the new study.
“The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.”
Dan Rutherford, at the International Council on Clean Transportation and not part of the research team, said the analysis raised the question of equality.
“The benefits of aviation are more inequitably shared across the world than probably any other major emission source,” he said. “So there’s a clear risk that the special treatment enjoyed by airlines just protects the economic interests of the globally wealthy.”
The frequent flyers identified in the study travelled about 35,000 miles (56,000km) a year, Gössling said, equivalent to three long-haul flights a year, one short-haul flight per month, or some combination of the two.
The research, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, collated a range of data and found large proportions of people in every country did not fly at all each year – 53% in the US, 65% in Germany and 66% in Taiwan. In the UK, separate data shows 48% of people did not fly abroad in 2018.
The analysis showed the US produced the most emissions among rich nations. China was the biggest among other countries but it does not make data available. However, Gössling thinks its aviation footprint is probably only a fifth of that of the US.
On average, North Americans flew 50 times more kilometres than Africans in 2018, 10 times more than those in the Asia-Pacific region and 7.5 times more than Latin Americans. Europeans and those in the Middle East flew 25 times further than Africans and five times more than Asians.
The data also showed a large growth in international flights from 1990-2017, with numbers tripling from Australia and doubling from the UK.
The researchers estimated the cost of the climate damage caused by aviation’s emissions at $100bn in 2018. The absence of payments to cover this damage “represents a major subsidy to the most affluent”, the researchers said. “This highlights the need to scrutinise the sector, and in particular the super emitters.”
The figure for the social cost of carbon emissions was actually a bit conservative, Rutherford said.
A levy on frequent fliers is one proposal to discourage flights. “Somebody will need to pay to decarbonise flight – why shouldn’t it be frequent flyers?” Rutherford said. But Gössling was less enthusiastic, pointing out that frequent flyers were usually very wealthy, meaning higher ticket prices may not deter them.
“Perhaps a more productive way is to ask airlines to increase the share of [low carbon] synthetic fuels mix every year up to 100% by 2050,” Gössling said. A mandate for sustainable aviation fuel starting in 2025 is backed by some in the industry.
A spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents the world’s airlines, said: “The charge of elitism may have had some foundation in the 1950s and 1960s. But today air travel is a necessity for millions.”
He said the airline industry paid $94bn in direct taxes, such as income tax in 2019 and $42bn in indirect taxes such as VAT.
“We remain committed to our environmental goals,” the Iata spokesman said. “This year – in the teeth of the greatest crisis ever facing our industry – airlines agreed to explore pathways to how we could move to net zero emissions by around 2060.”
A key pillar of the industry’s plans is the carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation, produced by the UN’s air transport body. But this was heavily criticised in June when revisions were seen as watering down an already weak scheme, with experts estimating that airlines would not have to offset any emissions until 2024. “I think they have a zero interest in climate change,” Gössling said.
Other research by Gössling found that half of leisure flights were not considered important by the traveller. “A lot of travel is going on just because it’s cheap.”
He stopped flying for holidays in 1995 and more recently stopped going to academic conferences and taking long-haul flights. “I’m not saying I’ll never fly again. But if I can avoid it, I really, really try,” Gössling said.
by Riccardo Boin, Alex Cosmas, Steve Saxon, and Jonathan Steinbach
McKinsey & Company.
Airlines are using a wealth of new data sources in 2020. Strategy should now replace adrenaline as the fuel for decisions around data adoption and usage.
In 2019, we calculated that analytics represents an up to $40 billion opportunity for global aviation, in retail alone. The reality for aviation has changed completely since then, but the importance of analytics has not: it has enabled the industry to react and manage networks and commercial functions in a way that is more agile than ever.
At many airlines, commercial functions have embraced new data and ways of operating, and the next challenge is to do so at scale. With COVID-19, the unprecedented extent of network breakdown means historical commercial data have become less relevant. Network teams are looking for pointers on where they should deploy capacity. Marketing teams would likely benefit from new data to steer promotions and improve marketing-spend effectiveness. And sales teams are struggling to get ahead of competitors’ sales initiatives.
Forecasting returning traveler demand will be vital to solving some of these issues and getting ahead in the new reality. Decision makers should ask themselves where analytics can add value, what they need from their data platform, and how their standard ways of working will need to change.
Responding to the crisis
As of September 2020, our models indicated the airline industry was operating at only around 55 percent of precrisis capacity and was mostly limited to domestic routes. The industry’s total revenue may fall by more than $400 billion for 2020 as a whole, and some geographies may not see a return to pre-pandemic levels of available-seat kilometers until 2023.
Revenue managers have been at the center of managing this crisis. Some have proved agile and resourceful in their adoption of new data, and this has also led to new ways of working. Revenue and network managers have worked closely to understand unconventional demand signals and to make route, capacity, and pricing decisions accordingly. Some airlines have formalized this collaboration into commercial “nerve centers,” with the aim of increasing the precision of demand forecasting.
In our experience, the solutions to these and other issues lie in new, unconventional data sources.
Traditional data sources
Travel shopping data
● GDS1 ticketing (marketing information data tapes)
● Airline’s direct channel
● Online trends
Market and competitor insights
● Airfare benchmarking
● Effective flight capacity
● Competitive published schedules
● Schedule data
● Airport data
● On-time performance data
New data sources
Travel shopping data
● Web and app analytics from competitors
● Flight-search data from metasearch engines and GDS1
● GDS1 and direct channel services
● Accommodation searches on aggregators websites
● Financial analytics (e.g., credit card spend)
● Travel restrictions
● Web searches
● Consumer sentiment videos
● Mobility trends from data via maps and satellite imagery
At the start of the pandemic, airlines had made varying degrees of progress upgrading their tech stacks and adding analytics capabilities. These tech stacks do not appear to be prepared, however, for the immediate and substantial disruption to commercial functions caused by the current crisis. Countless systems are not yet calibrated either to take advantage of the opportunities offered by analytics or to factor in the ongoing changes in the economic environment:
— Models of consumer choice should be updated. Customers’ priorities and preferences have changed and will likely continue to do so during the coming 24 months. Existing choice models, which are based on past data, are therefore unlikely to accurately forecast demand.
— Market share models do not factor in recent developments. Most decision-support tools are based on historical data, so they struggle to cope with the current disruption to the industry. One example is quality-of-service analysis, which airlines have used to identify market share on routes.
— Historical data used by inventory models are no longer relevant. Revenue-management systems generally rely on outdated demand curves to guide inventory changes, but the shape and slope of demand will continue to evolve during the next few years.
— Network teams struggle to cope with rapidly changing schedules. Late or last-minute changes to published schedules have become much more common in recent months, even compared with previous crisis situations.5 These constant updates make it difficult for passengers to compare schedules with competitors.
When will demand rebound?
The key question for many is where and when demand will come back, and airlines are racing to update their forecasting models. Some have already accepted innovative data around demand signals. These have required the construction of a new commercial-operations infrastructure to deal with data upload, data cleaning, and the integration of large, complex, regularly refreshed data sets.
Few airlines have dedicated business-intelligence teams to manage this significant task. Old data are frequently hardwired into legacy systems, and it can be challenging to extract the data that remain relevant and integrate them with new and up-to date data sources.
What now? Chief commercial officers and chief data officers have a lot on their plates. They are still under considerable pressure to generate revenue and keep costs down and locating and responding to demand signals is just the first step in transforming commercial functions.
In our experience, however, efforts to understand (and respond to) the likely shape of demand tend to pay off. In a recent case, a new system that improved the targeting and timeliness of offers across specific customer segments increased booking conversion rates by up to one percentage point and reduced marketing costs by 5 to 10 percent.
Questions to ask when scaling data in aviation
At this critical juncture, airlines that are looking to gain an edge on their competitors should ask three questions.
Where can analytics add value?
The key activities for any analytics team have always been to develop use cases, identify their business value, and then phase in development plans. The vital importance of these activities has not changed.
What has changed are the most promising target segments and use cases. The crisis has forced many airlines to switch their focus to domestic or regional markets.6 Airlines can create value here— but only if they can both understand where demand is returning and respond quickly. This requires them to seek new, targeted data sources: local online travel agencies, for example, may be important to understand aspects of demand that are not properly tracked by global distribution systems.
Given the need to improve cash flow, airlines can apply dynamic pricing to fill seats in the short term. Targeting offers by customer microsegment is a good way to optimize revenue; those who must travel (such as business travelers) will have a lower price elasticity and therefore be prepared to buy at a higher price, while last-minute offers may be attractive to more opportunistic customers (such as young leisure travelers).
What are my data-platform needs?
Daily flight-search data sets are large—typically around two terabytes. Descriptive dashboards to track demand, such as Air Travel Pulse (developed by the International Air Transport Association),7 were assembled relatively quickly during the crisis. But considerable effort is needed to put in place the right data pipelines and automate data cleaning. During the past few months, many companies have understandably emphasized speed to market over scalability.
A possible next step for an airline with a functioning demand dashboard is to develop a comprehensive data-platform strategy, which is likely to include adding a data-integration layer. By combining traditional and new data sources, this layer would make the overall data architecture more flexible and easier to scale up—and it can also automatically push insights to business domains such as marketing and partner relationship management (PRM). Adding this data-integration layer will require considerable effort and investment, and companies are also likely to need a cloud platform, an analytic data-warehouse layer, and a team that maintains the data platform.
The focus of airline budgets is on new data sources (and we see some airlines budgeting up to 30 percent more for this information and the engineering teams required to use it). Translating real-time travel restriction announcements into data points that can be integrated into the demand dashboard will remain crucial, so airlines must also ensure they have a well-resourced data-science team in place to develop and maintain such a model.
Finding the time and resources needed to implement these upgrades will be challenging, particularly during the pandemic. However, scalable impact is unlikely without an integrated, flexible data platform.
Which ways of working can be retained, and which need to change?
Transparency—and a clear understanding of the ways in which the new reality is different from the old—will be key to building trust. We have observed four practices that successful teams use to adapt and reshape their ways of working in response to changing circumstances:
— Break down silos. Interdepartmental alignment (including among the planning, PRM, and revenue-management teams) has always been key to the development and execution of agile commercial strategies. In our experience, teams that came together in cross-silo “nerve centers” during the crisis were able to transition more smoothly to new commercial strategies. At a minimum, network meetings should be moved from traditional monthly half-day occurrences, to weekly touchpoints during which the teams look at the dashboard together.
— Let go of the past. Instead of grafting smaller changes onto legacy processes, teams should accept and adopt new ways of working for each step of key processes. So far, this is not always happening. Some airlines have used new data and approaches, for example, but continue to use legacy commercial reports for final decision making. Airlines that fully integrate the new approaches can be more agile and more flexible; we have seen low-cost carriers with advanced end-to-end analytical capabilities place capacity on new routes before their legacy competitors had even held a decision meeting.
— Create transparency around algorithms. Algorithms can be hard to understand for data scientists, let alone for the many domain and functional experts who come together to work in mixed teams. Data teams that can create transparency around their algorithms (by, for example, ensuring visibility along the data pipelines and creating other function-specific dashboards) can generate buy-in from across domains and train their algorithms faster.
— Develop strategic data partnerships. It is typically inefficient for individual carriers to own all the data or develop all the relationships they need to stay on top of the rapid evolution in alternative information sources. Fortunately, service providers that can help airlines navigate the fast-changing data landscape have proliferated.
Many airlines are aware of the importance of data and analytics. However, the first wave of data adoption ran on adrenaline—as it did in many other industries. The companies that will outperform in the long term will be those that are thoughtful and strategic in how they explore and embrace new data, leave old approaches behind, and introduce new ways of working into their commercial functions
Confidence remain at record lows
• Confidence in global tourism continued to hit record lows in the period May-August 2020, according to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index survey. On a scale of 0 to 200, the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts rated the period May-August with a score of 22. An overwhelming majority (93%) of respondents evaluated the period May-August 2020 as much worse (69%) or worse (24%) than expected.
• This reflects a slower than expected restart of tourism during the Northern Hemisphere peak summer season. Despite a gradual reopening of international borders in late May and June, the rebound in travel was mostly limited to Europe and proved to be short-lived, due to a spike in contagions. Many destinations have since reintroduced travel restrictions and advisories which have slowed down the already weak pace of recovery.
• Expectations remain weak for the period September-December 2020, which covers part of the Northern Hemisphere winter season and the Southern Hemisphere summer season. UNWTO experts rated prospects with a score of 34 as compared to 25 for May-August, the lowest reflecting no major change in confidence levels for the remaining four months of the year. Experts mentioned the impact of the ongoing pandemic and the lack of a vaccine, as well as travel restrictions in all forms still in place (i.e. partial or full border closure, compulsory quarantine requirement, etc) weighing on prospects for the remainder of the year.
• UNWTO experts from Europe are the most pessimistic about September-December 2020, with 89% expecting worse or much worse results, followed by experts from Asia and the Pacific (82%), from the Americas (81%) and Africa (80%). Experts from the Middle East are the least pessimistic of all world regions, with 67% expecting a worsening of results in the last four months of 2020.
International tourism expected to rebound by Q3 of 2021
• A majority of experts sees a rebound in international tourism in 2021, in particular by the third quarter 2021, while around 20% expects it to occur only in 2022.
• Most experts do not see a return to pre-pandemic 2019 levels happening before 2023. By regions, the largest share of experts pointing to a return to 2019 levels in 2023 or later are in Europe (74%) the Americas (71%) and Asia and the Pacific (66%). In Africa and the Middle East this share is 60% and 50% respectively. Half of respondents from the Middle East and 40% from Africa expect the recovery to 2019 levels to take place by 2022.
• Experts consider travel restrictions as the main barrier weighing on the recovery of international tourism, along with slow virus containment and low consumer confidence. The lack of coordinated response among countries to ensure harmonized protocols and coordinated restrictions, as well as the deteriorating economic environment were also identified by experts as important obstacles for recovery. Slow flight resumption was considered comparatively less determinant among factors mentioned.
• Domestic tourism is driving the recovery of several destinations but in most cases only partially, as it is not compensating for the drop in international demand. Among regions, respondents from Asia and the Pacific were the most positive regarding the contribution of domestic tourism to the recovery of destinations. Experts mentioned that domestic tourism has boosted the demand for nature-based products, such as rural and coastal areas, though meetings and conferences as well as urban tourism continued to struggle due to the lack of international visitors. The resumption of domestic tourism is helping the recovery of destinations with a sheer domestic size, though domestic tourism is not strong enough to drive the recovery in destinations heavily relying on inbound tourism. Furthermore, the pandemic has severely disrupted domestic travel in some countries, due to local lockdowns.
• According to experts, there is a high demand for countryside tourism in Macao (China), but this does not compensate the drop in demand from Mainland China. In the United Kingdom, domestic tourism is significant but below normal levels due to restrictions and local lockdowns, while in New Zealand the demand for domestic travel is high but not enough to drive recovery as most of the destination’s market is international. In the United States, where domestic represents 85% of travel spending, the pandemic has severely disrupted domestic travel demand, with an impact on tax revenues and funding for promotion.
UNWTO Confidence Index and survey:
UNWTO conducts a Panel of Tourism Experts’ survey to track global tourism performance and business sentiment every four months. In each survey, Panel members are asked to rate both the performance of the previous 4 months and the outlook for the coming 4 months on the following scale:  much worse;  worse;  equal;  better,  much better. The result is a Confidence Index for the tourism sector which has been published since April 2003. The UNWTO Secretariat’s aim is to continuously expand and improve the Panel sample. Experts interested in participating in the survey are kindly invited to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the most recent survey, additional questions were made to the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and the expected time of recovery. The survey was conducted during the first week of October 2020 and follows a prior survey conducted in July.
Dominican Republic, (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism has launched a new marketing campaign which underscores through captivating creative that Dominican Republic is open and well prepared for international tourism. The campaign encourages consumers to immerse in travel without uncertainty while offering reassurance that a trip to Dominican Republic will be worry-free. With the country’s free health coverage plan―which provides 100 percent financial support in the event of exposure to COVID-19 while in-country―travelers get a feature no other Caribbean destination offers.
Over the course of the pandemic, and upon international boarders reopening on July 1, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism (MITUR), in collaboration with the National Association of Hotels and Tourism (ASONAHORES) and other Dominican government entities, have worked to better understand tourists’ concerns to ensure the country is adequately prepared to reactivate tourism. As a result, on September 15, the country and ASONAHORES launched the Responsible Tourism Recovery Plan, which features unmatched competitive safety measures and protocols, specifically the free Health Coverage Plan.
With this free health coverage plan, all international tourists arriving on commercial flights and visiting a hotel are granted temporary access during the check-in process. The coverage includes medical attention by specialists, medical transfers, transfer of a relative, penalty for airfare changes, lodging for prolonged stays and more. This offering, which is available at all medical centers around the tourist region, is provided at no cost to visitors arriving on or before December 31, 2020.
“This revitalization campaign further reinforces our commitment to not only the recovery of tourism but also to regaining traveler confidence while ensuring their safety,” said David Collado, Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism. “Our country is renowned for warmth, hospitality and immersive beauty, and we are thrilled to launch this campaign to shine a spotlight for those ready to travel that Dominican Republic is open and ready to welcome them.”
Strategically designed to highlight the country’s endless beauty and indulgent offerings, the campaign commences the next chapter of MITUR’s global tourism positioning efforts with a two-pillared approach: reactivate tourism and regain travelers trust. On October 20, the campaign debuted with a :30 second spot across all digital platforms and a dedicated social campaign.
Over the following months, the campaign will extend into the brand’s other marketing channels and efforts, including, but not limited to, paid media, search engine optimization, in-country activations and public relations.
In addition to the free health coverage plan, the country also features a broad portfolio of world-class safety measures, including, but not limited to:
Ease of Entry: As of September 15, all international travelers no longer need to provide a negative PCR or COVID-19 test upon arrival. Instead, airports and other ports of entry will administer a quick, aleatory breath test to between 3 and 10 percent of passengers, and all those who present symptoms.
Safety Upon Arrival: Following arrival at all eight international airports and other ports throughout the country, guests will be subject to mandatory temperature checks, social distancing and mask ordinances in and around airports, hotels and public spaces. Likewise, within the customs process, travelers will be required to submit a mandatory Traveler’s Health Affidavit. Through this form, passengers declare they have not felt any COVID-19 related symptoms in the last 72 hours and will be required to provide contact information details for the next 30 days.
Sanitary Bubble: MITUR also collaborated with ASONAHORES to create a unique sanitary bubble strategy that significantly reduces the risk of virus transmission between guests and hotel staff. Within each bubble, teams of hotel employees work for two weeks straight, staying in a designated and segmented area of the hotel. Prior to the start of their shift, employees must present a negative COVID-19 test.
For a first look, visit:
To obtain more information on travel and COVID-19, visit: www.godominicanrepublic.com/coronavirus.
For more information on hotels, attractions, activities and to begin planning your Dominican adventure, visit www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.
World Economic Forum
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the global importance of the travel and tourism industry economically, as well as its interconnectedness with other industries. Border restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing have impacted everyone in the industry, from small tour operators to multinational hotel chains and major airlines.
According to the latest World Travel & Tourism Council, COVID-19 will impact, in a baseline scenario, an estimated 121.1 million jobs, and more than $3.4 trillion in GDP could be lost in 2020. The longer-term damage to the livelihoods of those in the industry remains to be seen.
But while the negative repercussions of the crisis are uncountable, there have been some side effects that can be harnessed for positive change in the future. The World Economic Forum’s recent Rebuilding Travel and Tourism panel, at the Sustainable Development Impact Summit, explored the intersection of consumer consciousness, technology acceleration and destination management - and found solutions that have the potential to reshape the way we market, manage and plan our travel.
Travelers are becoming more impact-conscious
The COVID crisis has made the travel and tourism industry, like many others, ask: "Should we keep doing things the way we did before?" The answer is, "Of course not," but too often the prospect of achieving real change feels impossible to tackle. We must seize this moment where individual collective action can reach a critical mass to enable structural change.
Adventure Scientists' Gregg Treinish reached this realization himself a number of years ago when he reflected on his travels’ purpose and practice. “I started to feel extremely selfish, like going to these places for my own benefit without thinking about the local people that were there, without thinking about the environment I was travelling through and how to do something positive for those areas,” he said.
He extrapolated that there must be others like him, keen adventurers who, given the simple tools and ways, will choose to make a difference. He formed Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit that equips individuals that have outdoor skills with the tools to collect scientific data from nature during their travels.
Now, COVID-19 has given travellers a forced time-out. Promisingly, more people are stopping to reflect like Gregg on their travel patterns and, most importantly, their impact. People are asking themselves questions they haven’t before: Will I be a tourist or a visitor? How can I travel in a way that has a positive impact?
They’re also expecting answers from the industry. For example, "How many of my tourist dollars will stay in the local economy?"
To date, there have been two barriers to the mainstream conscious traveller: the first was the inquisitiveness to ask those questions and the second was to easily find answers. Measuring claims of sustainable practices and comparing different options while not being taken in by greenwashing was a tall order for travellers to determine for themselves.
The good news is that some of the foundations have now been laid. In navigating travel amid the pandemic, with constantly changing restrictions, travellers have had a crash course in gaining new research skills. During COVID-19, this is taking the form primarily of navigating complex and dynamic border restrictions and assessing the virus risk with fact-based information.
The result has been a win for something other than price-first, as consumers currently think health-first. Now that many travellers have a new mindset and new skills, it’s up to the industry to connect people with accessible and clear information they need to make informed choices.
Tourists are looking for experiences in nature
COVID-19 may also serve to start a virtuous cycle that tackles one of tourism’s headline issues: overcrowding. Before the pandemic, tourists attracted tourists. Millions of travelers would seek out the must-sees in the most-popular must-go destinations at the peak must-visit months.
The pandemic has forced public awareness around personal health safety and the virtue of physical distancing. As such, the prospect of being shoulder to shoulder may not be palatable again. Now, consumers are avoiding crowded places and long-distance travel in favor of local and outdoor activities.
Ruzwana Bashir, CEO of Peek.com, an online platform that connects people with travel experience, noted that local bookings on the platform have doubled, with outdoor activities like kayaking or renting bikes up by almost 400% over the summer. Similarly, people have found a new found love for national parks, with Yellowstone National Park in the US seeing its second-highest visitor numbers ever in August (only beaten by the 2017 eclipse).
However, the trend toward more local and nature-based activities may be a double-edged sword. On one hand, increased interest in less densely packed local and nature-based activities could lead to reduced overcrowding in urban areas and spread more of the economic benefits created by travel and tourism to local and rural communities. Shorter-distance trips may also reduce emissions and help many destinations reduce dependence on international tourists who have less interest in preserving destination than residents.
On the other hand, increased interest in nature-focused trips could put additional strain on the already pressured environment. In the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019, of the top 10 countries with the highest rank for natural resources, six did not even make it into the top 50 for environmental sustainability.
It is therefore vital that the growing interest in outdoor activities is leveraged into better stewardship of the very natural assets that generate tourism demand.
Digital solutions are improving sustainability
The pace of travel and tourism service digitalization is being rapidly accelerated during the pandemic. Online platforms for services, marketing, payment and processes have risen in popularity as consumers avoid person-to-person contact. They have also become primary ways to provide and receive health safety standards and other pertinent information about a destination.
For instance, the Aruba Health App, developed by the Department of Public Health, helps travelers keep up-to-date on health information, including businesses that meet higher health-safety standards, as well as COVID-19 test results, explained Evelyna Christina Wever-Croes, Prime Minister of Aruba. Now that these direct channels have been opened between destinations or service providers and consumers, more relevant and targeted communications can be provided to facilitate more informed trip planning in the future.
Similarly, cell phone data has been instrumental in tracking the flow and density of people as well as contact tracing during the pandemic. For example, sharing live information about crowd levels or line-monitoring apps can help facilitate time-based dispersion at tourist hotspots, providing a win-win for both travelers and destinations.
The crisis has also led to the development of various public-private data-sharing initiatives that can lay the foundation for better access to information about sustainability and competitiveness. Examples of this include the World Trade Organization’s (UNWTO) Global Tourism Dashboard and the WTTC’s Recovery Dashboard.
Destinations are also seeing their information communications technology (ICT) readiness and capacity as an advantage to attracting a new breed of traveler. Recognizing the trend of remote working and its likelihood to continue to some degree post-crisis offers a diversification opportunity for highly tourism-dependent economies such as small island states like Aruba with 80% GDP historically from travel and tourism.
Extended working visas targeted at the digital nomad, such as Aruba’s One Happy Workation, will enable remote workers to enjoy working in vacation destinations, while the local economy can benefit from their contribution. Digital technology will also be necessary for providing more efficient and touchless solutions at airports and other public spaces.
In addition, automation, backed by touchless fingerprint and document scanning, face recognition and voice controls, will only grow in use in a post-pandemic world, further increasing the need for ICT readiness and prudent governance of privacy information.
Long-term progress requires cooperation
One of the most long-lasting lessons from COVID-19 may be the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration in the travel and tourism industry. The scale and global nature of the current crisis have forced the industry's business organizations, public institutions and others to cooperate on the destination, national and international level. Moreover, coordination with nontraditional entities such as health agencies has become vital.
Examples of global efforts to coordinate action include the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform, which includes industry multi-stakeholder projects such as CommonPass, an initiative that aims to develop a global, interoperable framework to safely restore cross-border travel to pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has already highlighted various roles of public-private committees and task forces in crisis response and recovery.
Nevertheless, as Martin Eurnekian, CEO of Corporación América, pointed out: “The industry, six months into this tragedy, doesn’t have a clear, consolidated approach.” This highlights the need for greater leadership and a common view of how to tackle the crisis.
The industry players must work together rethink all aspects, from marketing to managing visitor flows to spreading benefits to local communities to leveraging digitalization for sustainability efforts. Failure to do so will reduce the resiliency of the sector and leave it exposed to greater headwinds in the future. As Wever-Croes put it, the mandate now is not to build back, but to build forward.
A new study identifies key areas where the territory is still struggling to rebound from the 2017 hurricanes and says recovery efforts have “progressed at a slower pace than some other disaster recoveries in the United States and not as quickly as many Virgin Islanders would like.”
Conducted by the nonprofit RAND Corporation, the study was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and resulted in a 385-page report, “Recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Progress, Challenges, and Options for the Future,” which is available for free online at RAND.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA282-1.html.
Some progress has been made, and FEMA recently awarded $3 million for several additional hurricane repair projects. Those include $890,169 to restore the Farrelly Justice Center on St. Thomas, $384,093 to the Bureau of Corrections to repair the Alva A. Swan Jail Annex and replace the Franklin Building’s contents, $151,928 for the V.I. Fire Service to repair the Emile C. Berry Fire Station on St. Thomas, $107,852 to the Office of the Governor for management costs on St. Croix, and $1.5 million for other projects such as debris removal for the Nature Conservancy and management costs for the St. Croix Landmarks Society.
“But more than three years after the hurricanes, the territory still has substantial recovery needs. The USVI government estimates that, to fully recover from the damage, it will need to execute $11.25 billion in recovery work — nearly three times its annual gross domestic product,” according to the RAND report.
The study’s authors “reviewed the USVI’s prior recovery plans, analyzed available data, considered good practice in other disaster recovery settings, and held more than 170 group discussions with stakeholders,” which resulted in 76 recommendations to improve recovery efforts.
The territory was poorly positioned to deal with the devastation of the hurricanes, and “structural issues have impeded the USVI’s ability to manage, finance, and execute recovery efforts,” according to the report. “If these are not addressed, recovery will likely continue to be significantly delayed. Particular capacity challenges include complex government management staffing and coordination needs; difficulty in navigating the financing of recovery; a shortage of more than 5,000 workers to support recovery; and constraints on supply-chain capacity, especially in acquisition and distribution.”
There are numerous barriers delaying physical infrastructure repairs, including “the sheer amount of damage requiring restoration and long-standing financial, institutional, and technical issues associated with aging infrastructure.”
Those issues are holding back restoration of the tourism economy, education, and healthcare, and the study’s authors highlighted areas that can be improved and recommended officials “focus on improving crosscutting management, fiscal, supply chain, and workforce capacities because these are foundational to recovery in all sectors.”
Government agencies need to hire more staff and “build the recovery workforce by expanding temporary housing for off-island workers and providing additional training for USVI residents,” according to the report. Affordable housing must also be increased “by speeding up repairs on damaged homes, clarifying property ownership, expanding temporary housing, and preventing displacement of residents.”
The territory’s healthcare systems were particularly hard hit, and “the well-being of territory residents, including people struggling with mental health issues and other vulnerable individuals, also suffered,” according to the report. “The USVI experienced a significant drop in the health care workforce because of out-migration, compounding an existing shortage of health care providers and services. The hurricanes also exposed gaps in the territory government’s capacity to monitor mortality and disease morbidity and in the trauma care system.”
The report found that “critical health care services have been restored — in a limited way — while key infrastructure projects, such as hospital construction, are just getting started.”
While rebuilding the tourism sector, education, and healthcare are essential to the territory’s economic survival, “recovery in these areas is heavily dependent on the health and well-being of those who provide and those who receive the services,” according to the report. The territory’s high poverty rate and “lack of appropriate behavioral health care for vulnerable populations in the USVI is well known, and both the prior and current governors have declared behavioral health an emergency. This is compounded by the fact that adults in the USVI are more than 2.5 times more likely to be uninsured than adults living in one of the 50 U.S. states.”
Education and health care were particularly affected, and “some students continue to experience anxiety about storms, depression, emotional vulnerability, behavioral problems, and aggression. Teachers lack consistent support for their own challenges and training in how to help students cope,” according to the report. “The health and human service workforce shortages present before the hurricanes have continued to grow, and there are severe shortages in providing much needed behavioral health care.”
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.