Friday, July 30, 2021

Impact on Hospitality business in Asia as COVID continues - Interview with Saman Sarathchandra


This interview addresses the impact of Covid on the Asian Hospitality industry and dealing with the consequential emotional distress. I was curious and asked Saman Sarathchandra, hotel group GM in PH, his perspective and he says, This should not be the new normal .“

Impact on Hospitality business in Asia as COVID continues - Interview with Saman Sarathchandra

What is exactly going on in your opinion?

Nobody thought that this could spiral into a fatal pandemic and that we’d still be talking about it 15 months in.  The V-Shape recovery that we had hoped for has now transformed into infinity-dips. But the efficacy of vaccinations seems to give some hope even though new variants are emerging.

Do you think businesses will return soon?

It doesn't seem easy for any business to return to a financially sustainable point so soon, but no one hopes to walk back the 2020 journey again. In many European and Asian countries, restrictions are now being eased; governments are still weighing up how to strike a balance between the transmission rate and the opening of economies. Economic growth, job growth, and wage growth might take some time to bounce back, but there are promising signs already.

How are Western and Asian economies are coping with the crisis? Is Tourism decoupled from the social and emotional distress of COVID?

Western economies are going back and forth with COVID protocols while not shutting down day-to-day life and business processes for long periods of time. If the economy is shut, most governments will have to compensate each citizen by providing at least 60-80% of their monthly wage; still, no government can afford to carry its entire economy for too long. Therefore, they keep the economy open as much as possible, ask people to take precautionary measures, and let them travel across borders. We have continued learning on this subject, and the success of these actions seems promising, which is very feasibly happening.

In Asia, not only have most tourist hotspots been under pressure from the impact of Covid-19 but there isn’t much help devoted to helping businesses and communities offset their lost livelihoods. The lack of social safety net in many parts of Asia has wreaked havoc on the hospitality & tourism sector. The economic hardship is felt everywhere, and everyone is in eye-watering pain and increasing social and emotional distress. But again, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling this pandemic, nor have the authorities any silver bullets at their disposal.

What are your thoughts about the recovery and growth aspects in the coming months?

In 2021, Asia looks much different from its robust stand in 2020, and the recovery could be behind Europe and the USA, but it will likely reach the herd immunity at some point in 2021, if not perhaps in 2022.  At least in Asia, there is no vaccine hesitancy but a lack of opportunity for many who want it. Hopefully, Asia's recovery will not be hampered by the lack of vaccines and the threat of new strains.

It will take a few more months for businesses to expand and get rid of empty rooms and office spaces. Many countries try to build on past achievements while others strive for new concepts and develop different ecosystems and strategies to face the consequences of the new normal. Undoubtedly, this is an uphill battle to revive the tourism industry in tourism-starved countries, with expected arrivals in 2021 set to be 90% below that of 2019, but it is a good start after lockdowns and a safety-first approach!

How will hospitality & tourism regain its position as the fastest growing industry?

The question is, when will the Chinese be traveling again to fill the vacuum of the 32 million Chinese tourists that traveled to SEA in 2019? Will Chinese travelers increase traveling within regions instead of continents due to various geopolitical factors? Could these trends fuel the next wave of Chinese tourists to dominate Asian countries? If that happens, can Asia be adequately sustained by Asian tourism?

Despite the uncertainty, we need to be relevant and be prepared for all opportunities and vulnerabilities ahead.