COVID-19 has arrived in our lives unexpectedly, and what is worse, it is staying longer than anyone could have predicted. It is in a non-stop sprint to negatively impact the whole globe.
He is also passionate about audio-visual productions filming in Nepal and has partnered with prestigious channels such as Nat Geo, among others. The medium-term scenery is already set; Nepal's mountains, rivers and cultural attractions are on the wait for trekkers, families, photographers, nature lovers and travellers on the lookout for spiritual and energetic experiences, amongst others. The ball is in our court, we must embrace the responsibility to understand the current situation and implement new measures as per the present circumstances and the ones about to arrive in the near future
Meanwhile, the travel business community is having to endure the harshness that this pandemic has brought, struggling to resist this new economic crisis and survive.
We have focussed our thoughts and hopes on a near future where humanity would defeat the coronavirus and life would return to a new normal, in which people could travel with masks and hand gel in their backpacks.
However, this approach leaves most of the responsibility on the shoulders of scientists in order to develop vaccines to make social life safe again. As a community, we must be prepared and ready to undertake the responsibility of saving the travel industry and, therefore, our own businesses.
After an already long time in the wait coexisting with the virus, it is time for all the tourism stakeholders to grasp the nettle and start thinking how our businesses will survive in this new scenario, in this new normal because whether we like it or not, it will not disappear in the short term.
For the next couple of years, most travel companies worldwide will continue facing this survival trial.
As opposed to other crises we have seen and gone through, fighting against COVID-19 will be a guerrilla warfare, where companies will need to move quickly and smartly trying to catch the windows where travelling might be possible.
Two parameters need to match together in order to allow the travelling windows to open: Firstly, we need to consider the evolution of the successive pandemic infection waves. At present Europe is facing a third one, which began right after a happy family Christmas season, when safety measures were eased. This third wave is still growing up to its peak in much of Europe.
The second parameter to take into account is the holiday calendar and, therefore, when people can travel.
Selling windows will be feasible only when there is a match between the pandemic infection waves, which should be at their lowest, and the holiday calendar.
At that exact moment, people may be in the mood to travel, and at the same time they may also have some days off work.
Keeping social media channels active, allowing for quick reservation management, lowering prices if feasible, allowing for flexible cancellation policies, having safety measures in place and limiting the activity to small groups will be key matters in harnessing those windows.
According to experts' forecasts and the experience we already have in the evolution of the pandemic, we know that infection waves will be reaching our shores for a long while, sometimes like brave passing storms, others in the form of threatening tides that will last longer.
It is time for the tourist sector to sail on this new COVID ecosystem equipped with dynamic and agile strategies to exploit our selling opportunities safely and smartly.
This guerrilla warfare strategy will allow the private travel sector to move ahead, leading efforts and initiatives to provide safety measures and safe travels to our potential visitors.
This is not only a government matter, we must recognise that the private sector has a lot to do and say, therefore we must empower ourselves and act accordingly.
All the stakeholders in the travel business need to review their processes step by step to guarantee safety and healthy conditions for travellers, staff and more generally to all members of the public. These measures need to be visible, effective and crucially perceived as such.
For example, creating bubble groups where everybody should hold a negative PCR test; arranging the dining area in lodges so that only members of the bubble can use the space at a specific time frame; also having facilities to get PCR test results at hotels through the joint efforts between the public and private sectors; and more efficient check-in process at hotels and airports, baggage drop off desks, and generally more contact-free interactions going forward.
Nepal offers an immense array of possibilities to one of the most demanded types of tourism currently and even more. Its growth forecast is enormous, nature tourism. It is vital to acknowledge that despite all the negatives of the pandemic and the economic crisis that came as a consequence, there are plenty of future opportunities to offer experiences that include nature, remoteness, open spaces and solitude.
The medium-term scenery is already set; Nepal's mountains, rivers and cultural attractions are on the wait for trekkers, families, photographers, nature lovers, travellers on the lookout for spiritual and energetic experiences, amongst others.
The ball is in our court, we must embrace the responsibility to understand the current situation and implement new measures according to the present circumstances and the ones about to arrive in the near future.
Marcela is a professional in travel and business with over 15 years of experience in commercial relationships, negotiation, loyalty and strategic planning, but moreover she's a passionate traveller and food lover, she loves Nepal's spiritual and energetic experiences Enrique has been in the travel business for the last 25 years. He is a mountain guide, and since his first trip to Nepal in 1999, he has visited the country every year.
He manages a trekking agency in Spain since 2009.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.