Pankaj Pradhan is the chief executive of Beauty of Japan Tours, Japan’s leading destination management company, and has a mission to connect travellers with local experience of Japanese culture in a responsible and sustainable manner. Here he shares his thoughts and insights of ways forward for the industry.
Breaking Travel News: As an industry veteran, how does the current crisis compare to previous shocks to the travel sector you have experienced?
Pankaj Pradhan: I started my stint in tourism in 2001, almost two decades ago.
Along the way, I’ve personally experienced number of crisis such as SARS, 9/ 11, the global economic recession of 2008/2009, plus the great Japan earthquake about ten years ago.
All of these had put halt on the development of tourism.
We also had an opportunity to become more resilient and learn not to take anything for granted.
Covid-19 is quite different on many levels: its scale and how it kept spreading globally like wildfire.
In other crises, there was some indication of the lasting effect.
It is extraordinary to see many of my colleagues who have been in the industry for decades out of jobs, perhaps for the first time.
Some well-respected, inspiring companies going out of business have left a significant impact on the employees, clients and stakeholders alike.
Young passionate leaders who had been pursuing travel careers in the mode of re-setting their future plans.
BTN: How do you see the Tokyo Olympics panning out?
PP: Despite the foreseeable challenges, the Tokyo Olympic committee has expressed sheer commitment to hold this mega event.
For now, we must applaud their positive determination in these challenging circumstances.
Holding this event is not only pride for the country, but also a ray of hope and an optimistic outlook to many people and stakeholders.
Although, it is fair to expect that the arrangements and experience may be different.
BTN: Describe how the pandemic has impacted Japan’s inbound tourism. And how do you see Japan’s tourism path after the global restrictions are lifted?
PP: The most severe impact has been the postponement of 2020 Olympics, resulting in huge financial losses on many levels.
Other impacts were inevitable: a number of travel companies, hotels and ryokans downsizing their businesses, including some that have ceased trading, resulting in the loss of many jobs.
Some local homestays and traditional inns shifted their focus away from serving international visitors.
A number of small cultural experience suppliers have also been severally affected.
The most unfortunate part is that this may continue on a bigger scale if the rebound does not happen soon.
Fortunately, the Japanese government has been supporting companies by offering sizeable subsidies during this period of uncertainty.
This has been a great help for many small companies like us that believe in the positive aspect of travel business post-crisis and are committed as ever.
We are able to retain our staff and continue making our internal foundations stronger, developing internal efficiency, restricting workloads among team members and training staff in new skills.
BTN: Why is collaboration across the global travel industry essential to navigating the post-virus landscape?
PP: It is extremely important not only to collaborate but also looking into country and region-specific policy, trends from the suppliers and customer perspective, and sharing/ discussing at large.
We, as committed travel industry professionals, have greater obligation not only to look at our personal or company benefit but also towards the betterment of the entire industry.
BTN: What advice from your own experiences would you offer to other DMCs?
PP: Don’t be complacent when things are going in your favour and don’t be weak when it is against your course. Every crisis brings an opportunity.
This is just a pause, albeit a longer one but not a full stop. If you believe in changing this world for good, travel is a great force and source to do it in many ways.
We have a greater responsibility to contribute towards reshaping the future of travel industry.
Use your time, resources in doing small things to improve your efficiency, product, and sustainable and responsible business practices.
Think five to ten years ahead and into another generation.
How you can make difference to the people, suppliers and community you work with.
How can you make a difference to the environment in positive way?
How can you bring greater value to the clients, destination and community?
BTN: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the pandemic?
PP: A strong trend that is emerging is that people are more sensitive towards the environment and travelling responsibly.
Also, people have come to realisation that travel is a privilege, even though one might have cash stock in the bank, this opportunity to travel cannot be bought if it is not taken care of by us in responsible way.
Breaking Travel News: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?
PP: Honestly speaking, I am more optimistic about the future of this industry.
This is a round cycle that we are going through experiencing every twist and turn.
It is great opportunity for companies of all sizes to start from ground zero when travel resumes, and this can be a great equaliser.
This crisis has also tested vigorously our resilience, commitment, belief and I believe moving forward, companies and professionals who had stuck with firm commitment and were undefeatable despite of all the odds shall emerge as a winner at the end of this chapter.
Find out more about the company on the official website.