Tourism Recovery Townhall series, are a digital virtual platform, to provide a unique opportunity to governments around the world, their tourism leaders on the frontline of the recovery from COVID 19, heads of Tourism boards as well as CVBs, to talk about and share their expertise in managing crisis, and how their winning strategies will help countries come out stronger.

World Tourism Forum Institute CEO Sumaira Isaacs speaks to a Industry Expert and Senior Advisor to Saudi Tourism Ministry, Haitham Mattar in the 4th Edition of the World Tourism Forum Town Hall series.

Haitham Mattar reckons some “some destinations may be taking the “wait and see approach” due to the current uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation, although there are imminent opportunities highlighted by Research, which clearly shows that people in general will consider traveling before the development of a vaccine , if they will be assured rigorous protocols of implementation on physical distancing and sanitization standards are met.

Mattar also highlighted “the actions being taken by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are critical to the economy as a whole, and tourism specifically” Mattar added “ both countries led the way in the region on applying strict protocols and controlling the spread of the pandemic.”

“ today the focus is on keeping the industry alive and running, and with the actions Governments have taken. not only focused on the public sector, but also developed stimulus plans fort he private sector.”

Mattar sees recovery in the region through a three phased approach , soon as the risk of Covid subsides. First phase is the domestic travel, which today is a huge opportunity, if it is planned well. Second phase is regional travel with travel corridors/ bubbles developed between counties that can demonstrate their control on the pandemic. The third phase is the international travel which is forecasted to start soon after the ease of lockdown, albeit in smaller numbers, we will not to see numbers at the scale we expect until 2021.

Mattar sees collaboration is key today as it is critical for government bodies to align and work closely on their county’s recovery. “The Coronavirus outbreak has hit the events industry hard. But rather than wring our hands in despair, we must use this time wisely work together and prepare for a future of opportunity, a future filled with innovation, creativity and stronger relationships, not only with customers, suppliers and partners, but competitors, too.”

New Zealand’s PM announced a shorter workweek to encourage travel and support domestic tourism. ”This is the type of actions we need to see more of I order for the industry to start to revive itself.”

From an investment and hotel development perspective, “Governments across the world have made huge efforts to support the industry as a whole and the hotels in specific. however; we still witnessed the closure of more than 30% of the hotels in the Middle East, that’s not as high as the closures in Europe at 76%.“

During the 2008 Financial Crisis, Dubai was one of the most cities impacted sub the crisis, which left a huge number of projects uncompleted; However by 2010 and 2011 Dubai regained its economy and re-instilled investors’ confidence.
“ I believe we will see the same trends by investors who are still in a good cash flow position and will take advantage of the lower costs of construction today. There will be a logical slowdown in development but also there will be a logical effort to continue building hotels and tourism projects”

Mattar believes Covid-19 ”will not leave the World for a long time, but we will learn to manage it. People are very adaptable. We will come out of this crisis stronger and hotel investors confidence will come back again.”

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