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Governments urged to establish ‘green lanes’ to aid tourism recovery and promote bilateral travel agreement

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  • Singapore developing a set of common safety standards with regional governments to allow cross-border travel
  • Saudi Arabia’s US$61 billion stimulus package to support tourism business recovery

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 3 June 2020: Tourism strategies to support industry recovery and the use of technology and analytics to create resilience, took centre stage on the second afternoon of Arabian Travel Market’s virtual event, ATM Virtual.

The Bouncing back: tourism strategies for the futuresession, which took place on Tuesday 2nd June, discussed the long-term tourism development strategies put in place by the region’s governments to provide a catalyst to recovery when travel patterns return to relative normality.

 

The panel, which was moderated by industry consultant Gemma Greenwood, included Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief of Investment, Strategy and Tourism Marketing, Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia and Keith Tan, CEO, Singapore Tourism Board.

“We are trying to do things at a bilateral level with countries that we feel we can move forward with. We have announced initiatives such as ‘green lanes’ and introduced the idea of ‘travel bubbles’. For example, in our negotiations with China, we have agreed common standards to permit travel and we hope to replicate this with other countries, not dissimilar to the idea of free trade agreements,” said Tan

“We all agree that we don’t want to develop a patchwork of different standards and requirements. But this is not going to be easy,” he added.

Discussing the measure implemented by Saudi Arabia, Hamidaddin highlighted the importance of the industry and the need for government support to help the tourism industry recover.

“We look at the tourism sector from a strategic perspective in Saudi Arabia, but we also realise that this sector contributed 20% of all jobs in the last five years, across the world, underscoring the importance that must be placed on the sector by governments,” said Hamidaddin.

 

“Our job is to help the private sector survive and weather as much as we can during this pandemic. As such, Saudi Arabia launched a US$61 billion stimulus package that went into multiple tracks, including waiving licensing and tourism fees as well as deferring VAT and government fees for all SMEs, helping those most in need,” he added.

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During the session, Tan outlined the importance of being able to react quickly and develop partnerships between the public-private sectors to address the pandemic.

“The government can’t do everything. It is therefore important to have tight public-private partnerships. As early as February, we had announced the formation of the Tourism Recovery Action taskforce, comprising private sector individuals and key players from within the government.

“This was designed to layout plans, not only for recovery, but crisis communications, how we engage with the sector, and how we translate the advisories and directives from the health ministry to the tourism sector. This has proven to be very effective,” said Tan.

 

Also addressing strategies for recovery was the ‘Catapulting Resilience through Technology and Analyticssession, moderated by Lee Hayhurst, Executive Editor of Travel Weekly.

 

He was joined by a panel of international industry experts including Tony Smyth, Senior Vice President, iFree Group; Carlos Cendra, Chief Marketing Officer, Mabrian Technologies; Akemi Tsunagawa, Founder & CEO, Bespoke; Robin Ingle, CEO, Ingle International; and Gavin Harris, Commercial Director, Skyscanner.

 

Each discussed the development of applications and services addressing the varied needs due to the impact of COVID-19, such as managing frontline medical volunteers, analyzing where to find demand, tracking, tracing, and training.

 

According to the global search engine, Skyscanner, there are some early signs of green shoots in terms of search traffic. According to the company’s most recent weekly pulse survey, which monitors global sites, and overall improvement has been witnessed week-on-week.

 

Harris outlined the confidence of travelers to fly, with 70% of Skyscanner’s global passengers feeling safe enough to travel on an international flight in the next six months. However, when discussing flying within a three-month time period, confidence levels fell to 24%. From a domestic perspective, the confidence to travel on flights within a six-month period increased to 89%, and, globally, the Middle East and European passengers were the most confident overall when compared to other regions around the world.

 

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