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Looking Beyond The Pretty Pictures

Travel is far from being down for the count.

In fact, prominent figures in the travel industry told a Tuesday Baxter Media webinar that they remain upbeat about their industry’s future, despite the heavy toll coronavirus has taken on it during the past few months.

“I’m very optimistic about the future,” Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett told the webinar, the first of three Baxter Media is holding this week during its #TravelWebcastWeek event.

Bartlett’s Jamaica reopened to tourists just over a week ago, with 6,000 people arriving on the island since June 15. Half were expatriate Jamaicans returning home and the others were tourists. Tourists can stay in hotels in a corridor stretching from Negril to Port Antonio. Bartlett said those now arriving will find stringent cleaning and sanitary measures in place and required social distancing.

A New Demographic

Bartlett said there’s a “new demographic emerging” in travel that has tourists seeking “the highest level of travel with the minimum level of risk (to their health).”

Michael Lim, who heads the Hong Kong Tourism Board in this country, said his destination has decided on a three-pronged program to rebuild tourism — resilience, recovery and relaunch. The program sees Hong Kong’s tourist trade first reaching out to locals and later international travellers.

Lim said there will be heightened interest in outdoors and wellness activities.

He stated Hong Kong’s international airport has implemented leading-edge cleaning measures.

Lim said those in the industry must be prepared for the startup of travel.

He, too, was confident about travel’s long-term prospects, saying life is “boring” without it.

A Gradual Easing

Dana Welch of Tourism Ireland’s Canadian office, noted her destination is allowing attractions, hotels and restaurants to reopen before the end of this month, part of a gradual easing of restrictions being seen throughout much of Europe.

Susan Webb of Discover America’s Canadian chapter said some U.S. states are doing better than others in containing coronavirus. One region having success is New England, she said.

Webb identified Hawaii as a state that’s brought in particularly tough measures to deal with the pandemic.

Webb said travel agents must be able to convince their clients that a destination is safe in order to get bookings and can’t rely on “pretty pictures” to generate business.

Safety Is The Key

Gal Hana, Canadian director for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said it’s hugely important that tourists will feel they’re going to a safe destination when travel resumes.

Israel imposed tough measures when coronavirus first surfaced and has since gained praise for the way it’s dealt with the pandemic, he said. Israel too has begun lifting restrictions and about 30% of its hotels are now open. Also open are national parks and most beaches.

The onset of coronavirus came at a time when Israel’s tourism was on a roll, with the country enjoying a strong 2019 and this year saw it have its best January ever tourism-wise.

Meanwhile, Hana said people are familiar with the larger cities in his homeland but there are lesser-known places visitors will enjoy.

Today’s #TravelWebcastWeek session focuses on the hotel industry, with participants including Hotel Association of Canada president Susie Grynol.

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