Philip Gebu’s thoughts … Hospitality businesses appeal for bailout

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what they can do to prepare for COVID-19 recovery( 3)

 

Some few weeks ago, I wrote on how COVID-19 has revealed the need to develop our domestic tourism and promote our intra African tourism. It is becoming clear that our over dependency on international tourism, most especially the West, should be a thing of the past at least for the next two to three years.

Countries that have successfully contained the Covid-19 Pandemic have resulted to domestic or intra-regional tourism as the drive to revamping their tourism especially in this moment when our borders remain closed. CNN reports thatPoliticians from Australia and New Zealand are discussing the possibility of opening up borders to each other, creating a travel corridor — or “travel bubble” — between the two nations.

 

Both countries almost completely shut their borders to foreigners in March, a huge blow to their respective tourism industries. But with both appearing to have successfully brought their coronavirus outbreaks under control, politicians are now talking about when borders could be opened to each other. “If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month.  “That is a situation we would all like to be in, but of course, our number one focus at the moment is making sure that both our countries are in the position where we’re domestically managing Covid-19 to a point where we can with confidence open borders,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on April 27. Could Ghana and say Cote D’Ivoire begin talking the same way? How many Ivorians have visited Ghana in the past for tourism? what about Burkinabes, and Togolese? Domestic tourism and Intra African tourism are the longterm solution post Covid-19.

In India TTG Asia reports that Domestic travel is to bailout India’s tourism sector. The report says India’s industry players are banking on domestic tourism to revive their sagging fortunes amid travel slowdown, in view that local holidaymakers may prefer to travel domestically in the near term, due to global concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism stakeholders said that post-pandemic, international travel will take a backseat once travel restrictions have been eased or lifted, and domestic tourism will lead the industry’s recovery. Sarbendra Sarkar, founder and managing director, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts, said: “Internationally, for both business and leisure travel to normalise and to start growing, the larger world economy needs to start healing. Domestic tourism will be the only area of focus for the first few quarters once this pandemic is over.

“Also, considering that India is a key outbound tourism market, there is a good opportunity to attract this segment to domestic destinations.” With that in mind, some stakeholders are urging the Indian government to do more and offer incentives to spur domestic tourism. “This is the time that the Ministry of Tourism and state tourism departments should (come together to) brainstorm how to propel domestic tourism once the pandemic goes away,” said Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.

In Vietnam TTG Asia again reports that, domestic travel set to kick-start Vietnam’s tourism recovery. The report says that Vietnam’s tourism industry has gotten an early start to recovery, with domestic demand set to spearhead growth, as the country becomes the first in South-east Asia to lift social distancing restrictions. The lifting of social distancing restrictions was announced by the Vietnamese government on April 24, setting the stage for the return of domestic tourism. Restaurants in the country have started filling up again and some airlines are operating domestically. Linh Le, principal and co-founder of Luxperia, said with restrictions lifted, many city dwellers had planned trips to the coast for the four-day holiday from April 30 to May 4. However, he noted that the cost of flights is significantly higher, making flying more of a luxury than previously.

The opening up of Vietnam has led to Hotels offering some good deals with added value, however, while domestic tourism will increase, its pre-pandemic high-performance shall be shortened this year. Savvy operators are to tap into local micro and niche markets to attain some recovery of business within domestic tourism.” Michael Piro, CEO of Wink Hotels, also provided some advice which could be beneficial to Ghanaian Hoteliers. He predicted that the recovery will initially be led by business travel, transitioning to leisure-driven travel through the summer months. To further stimulate domestic demand, he said discounts and promotions will be used to encourage locals to travel.

With Hoteliers having met with the President of the republic, a bail out is on its way however as highlighted earlier on, the bail out may not be enough for a recovery. The recovery which has been driven by domestic tourism in the above-mentioned countries may not happen in Ghana anytime soon. When the restrictions on social gatherings are lifted, there may be some improvements driven by local conferencing, weddings, funerals and so on. The beneficiaries may be the hotels found in the lower categories. With Ghana seen as a very expensive destination, it may be more of a challenge for the hotel in the upper categories benefiting from domestic tourism. They therefore must face the reality and continue to adopt some of the measures I have been outlining for the past two weeks.

  1. Focus on changes in customer experience

This epidemic has introduced many variables that are currently fogging up the prospects of the hospitality industry. During the epidemic, measures to avoid cross contamination through food, containers or human touch, have suspended the “culture of sharing”. Moreover, due to restricted motion during the epidemic, the hotel industry will have to prepare for a significant increase in tourism demand after the epidemic. How hotels coordinate their resources and adapt to this sudden increase while guaranteeing service quality is critical to their survival. Due to the uncertainty of the changes in customer needs after the epidemic, hotels need to review their existing service offerings so as to adapt to the changes in customer experience. Restaurants in hotels may start presenting personal serving spoons when delivering a shared dish, promoting contactless delivery for in-room-dining, and designing menus in single portions rather than a sharing size. What’s more, to cope with the sudden increase in demand without sacrificing service quality, hotels can plan ahead for manpower scheduling, assess bottleneck in service delivery, allocate resources and maintain cash flow through pre-sales.

  1. Focus on the shift in consumption patterns

In order to support effective control of the epidemic, most customers avoided shopping for groceries in person, relying instead on delivery services, thereby accelerating the development of online sales and promotion. In addition, since it is not recommended to go out, customers’ social needs have shifted online, and as a result, many business owners and individuals have been using social media such as WeChat, Weibo, or Tik Tok to promote products or share lifestyle via live broadcast and online interaction. To cope with the shift in consumption pattern, hotels can make full use of existing online platforms to enhance interaction with customers. During the epidemic period, many hotels have already expanded the catering services to online ordering and delivery. After the epidemic, hotels can retain this sales channel and offer To-Go breakfasts and Bento box delivery for the local community with hotel standard packaging, an initiative that caters to customer needs, creates additional revenue and also strengthens the “safe image” of hotels. Furthermore, hotels should make full use of their diverse online platforms, transforming them from one-way notification communication to two-way interactive communication, utilizing these channels to effectively understand and respond to customer needs in a timely manner.

  1. Focus on quality asset management

The epidemic has had a huge impact on the entire hospitality industry and has even led to the complete closure of some hotels due to lack of cash flow support. For such assets, some hotel owners may consider selling the properties, while other survivors may look to rebranding or renovation for the purpose of repositioning and enhancing competitiveness. How hotels should do business with a sustainable development model after the epidemic takes not only the focus on competitors’ response strategies, but more importantly an in-depth dig into the characteristics of customer needs. To some degree, improving brand culture and service standards to adapt to customer needs is critical for some independent hotels. Hotel owners and operators have to review the positioning of the brand in order to grasp the needs of the target market more accurately. +In addition, hotel owners also need to optimize asset strategy, refurbish or renovate high potential assets, and enhance asset competitiveness to cater to changes in customer needs. For under-performing assets, they need to be properly dealt with in a timely manner in order to preserve and enhance the core of the asset portfolio.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901. Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations

 

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