MUSCAT: COVID-19 has undeniably struck the hospitality and tourism sectors the hardest. But experts say it is an opportunity to make these sectors more eco-friendly and sustainable.
It will take a couple of years to be back to normal. And when it happens, they feel tourists might never travel the same way again.
Dagmar Symes, former General Manager, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, believes that this pandemic can be used as a chance to re-design the entire hospitality industry.
“The damages inflicted to nature cannot be reversed. It is better late than never to press the reset button into a whole new light of redefined hospitality. Social distancing cannot prevail as it is contradictory to the core of our business,” she says.
She mentions that guest experience will be enhanced towards the trend by using recyclable materials, local produce, paper-free rooms supported by new technologies and degradable cleaning products.
Yasser al Maamari, promoter of Al Maamari Tours, warns the aged may develop psychological trauma travelling outside or develop travel phobias. Therefore, they might prefer to undertake holidays or outings in their own country. He says tourists will not be able to enjoy hotel facilities like earlier and one needs to be aware of restrictions due to health protocols. Travellers, he says, must be prepared for mandatory medical certificates and health insurance, which will make holidays more expensive.
Tour operators should make sure that proper hygiene is followed by guides and drivers who must disinfect their vehicles before any trip.
Martine Gohier, General Manager, M&N Tours by Arabian Shining Touch, calls upon the industry to focus more on recycling and ban plastics.
“Europe is becoming conscious of their environment in a big way. I think the Sultanate could create more jobs in that field which will attract more eco-responsible tourism.”
According to Dagmar, mass tourism will fade away and that travelling will become more expensive as capacities in aviation and hotels cannot be fully utilised in the short term.
Guests are likely to question hygiene standards from a different perspective. Private villas will become the new trend with the aspect of social and physical distancing, she adds.
Hotels will have to update their existing model of operations.
Crisis management plans must embody cost efficiency by identifying non-essential services and areas with decline in demand.
“The crisis has also revealed the companies’ loyalty and commitment towards their employees. Multiple talents have been made redundant in parallel to new positions arising, especially in hygiene related areas.
Offerings will have to be readjusted to the current travellers’ demand and expectations in terms of verbiage, content and style,” she adds.
Another aspect of the future hotel and travel environment will be the implementation of new technology in all areas.
Symes says the virtual world will be the norm and that personal devices will be the smart tool of tomorrow while consumer behaviour has already long shifted to online bookings, automated systems and digital systems need to be deployed by hotels.