WRITTEN BY CH. FAISAL MAHMOOD
No Doubt, worldwide, this is a darkest time for the travel, tourism, aviation and hotel industry. As global tourist destinations, big or small remain closed and travel company operations continue to be wound down, the industry will increasingly look to the respective governments for bailout packages and its marketing functions to provide campaigns of hope or more simple communications to maintain their engagement with customers.
As no one knows how long this global pandemic will last, operators should ere on the side of caution in their marketing communications and simply identify and engage with their individual consumer base to help them to understand how their needs will change post-pandemic.
This simple approach will pay dividends for an industry that will need to understand how consumer behavior and demand for travel and tourism products will inevitably change as a result of COVID-19. According to one report three quarters of global travelers’ purchasing choices are influenced by how the world around them is changing. Post-pandemic, travel and tourism market demand will have likely changed substantially, calling for a major strategic evaluation for many leading companies and tour operators. We at home, have to change accordingly for early start, irrespective to the magnitude.
Last week a leading organization introduced a simple but effective campaign in response to the current situation with a ‘COVID-19 social distancing ad’, depicting ‘Captain Obvious’ washing his hands, alongside the words ‘Just Stay Home’. Similarly, another tourism company has also announced plans to introduce the ‘Back with a Bang’ campaign once this crisis is over. A leading luxury tour operator launched a film across social media channels urging travelers to stay home but reflect on previous experiences, with the underlying message the operator will still be there.
Though all travel-related companies, home or abroad are under severe strain right now with scrutiny over all aspects of their operations, including cancellation policies, payrolls, the treatment of staff and contingency planning. The introduction of some marketing activity in different part of the world like China and Turkey that are strategically placed may help to ease the strain in the short term, maintain a strong bond with consumers and offer an incentive for travel in the future.
Here in Pakistan a few signals hint that at least hope is not lost for the summer climbing season. Earlier this week, the government allowed some industries to reopen, mainly construction and e-commerce. The government should open mountaineering to save the lucrative climbing season.
We suggest the government of Pakistan to allow international climbers from countries with fewer restrictions and where the disease is under control to enter Pakistan by the time the Karakorum season starts. As some international teams have already confirmed their willingness to come if some sort of normalcy returns.
The government should issue permits for Gasherbrum 1,2, K-2and for Nanga Parbat for upcoming summer mountaineering, as long as the pandemic is not much spreaded in the areas like Skardu and the surrounding the mountaineer camps.
Previously the calls for economic support in the shape of packages, raised by TAAP, PATO and PHA are still unheard. Surely it will remain unheard till it will be too late and too damaging. As neglected for years as usual, the turn of the tourism industry to be rescued by the government will come late.