Global hospitality will be more competitive than ever as the world reopens, with destinations urged to prepare now for the return of guests.
Speaking during the new ATM Virtual event, Haitham Mattar, senior advisor at the Saudi Arabia ministry of tourism, said demand was returning to the market.
He explained: “Consumers, travellers, they want to book – live data from Google, Amadeus and others shows this.
“Small numbers for now, certainly, but it is happening – from July forward we are seeing a return in demand for destinations that have shown they have Covid-19 under control.”
He continued: “We need governments to rigorously enforce physical distancing and other measures to rebuild confidence – but guests will return.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for countries to get back into the market.
“Destinations must have a plan, must have a recovery strategy and must start negotiations with online travel agencies to speak to consumers who are ready to travel.”
His remarks come as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation records the first modest lifting of Covid-19-related travel restrictions.
New research from the body shows three per cent of all global destinations have now taken steps to ease constraints.
Mattar added destinations must be ready for the gradual return of hospitality.
“We will see a three-phase approach,” he said, “beginning with domestic travel.
“Where you have scale, such as the USA, Germany and others, domestic travellers will be the first to return to market.
“Then regional travel, before going global.”
He continued: “We need to take action today to get people arriving in three months’ time.
“Every destination will reopen, and it will be very competitive once the reopening does start, and people need to prepare today.”
His thoughts were echoed by WTTC ambassador, Gerald Lawless.
Speaking this morning, he added that it was the responsibility of the private sector to rebuild trust with travellers.
“The industry has a great responsibility to represent the voice of the people, and our customers - the WTTC has taken the lead here, and it has been extremely effective.
“People want to travel now, and we need to be pressurising governments to allow this.
“There is an opportunity coming up, and we need to look at what we need to do to make it happen – for example, the strengthening of the Schengen Area.
“This is something that has to continue, domestic travel, safe-corridors.
“This will help us keep our teams employed in the industry in the short-term as we begin to consider the longer-term recovery.”