AFTA view: Troubling times

JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA

COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus has definitely eclipsed the issues register for the kick off of the 2020 year.

It is a big problem for the travel and tourism industry, there is no doubt about that. Governments across the globe have scrambled to try and contain the spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) has attempted to maintain calm and work towards a solution, meanwhile the consumer media have had a field day reporting on every twist and turn.

At the time of writing this column, travel bans and advisories from and to China remain in place and are at serious levels. The question that remains is what should travel businesses do, what can they do and in the end what did they do in order to minimise the impact of this virus on their business?

Airlines, cruise companies, coach touring companies and suppliers across the travel value chain have all been impacted, either directly by cancellations and schedule changes or by the knock-on effect of people wanting the cancel, change their minds, change their destinations, or a combination of all. The travel industry is in the thick of all of this and I suspect this will continue for at least the month of March or April with a longer outlook to include May and even possibly June.

For travel businesses, AFTA has released a range of ideas that companies should consider in the form of a health check of the business. This may include:

  • Reviewing the business plan, adjustments to expectations and a change in circumstances to accommodate a downturn.
  • A review of revenue and passenger number targets via a lens of short-, medium- and long-term impacts of this virus.
  • A review of staffing levels with a view to work with staff to reduce hours, take leave both paid or unpaid, consider long service leave, a view to study leave and other ideas that would assist the business over these coming months.
  • A deep review of expenses with a view to offset or remove any that are not critical to the business.
  • Perhaps a review of forward marketing expenses and a solid look at overheads generally.

All sobering to consider, but for many travel businesses this will have to be done as the situation with this virus is kicking in and has become serious.

On the positive side of the ledger it is as important to consider what the recovery actions will be and come up with a plan to roll out just as soon as the virus is declared over.

For AFTA members, the team remains at the ready to help and support, and we know already from the multitude of calls that there are many good ideas to be shared. We remain ready to do this across the industry.

AFTA has a plan for post-virus and we hope that this will help support the travel ecosystem as we turn to recovery — just as soon as we can.

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