Tourism sector can beat virus using innovation, safety

2021-01-29 12:07:15

SHI YU/CHINA DAILY The alarming increase in new clusters of COVID-19 infections has prompted renewed calls for strengthening anti-pandemic measures such as wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing and avoiding big gatherings. The central and local governments have already asked people to stay where they work during the Spring Festival holiday in order to reduce the risks of infection. The pandemic has had a huge impact on the service industry. As the novel coronavirus continues to mutate, it is time to review the relationship between epidemic prevention and control and industrial development. The local governments have to maintain the quota-or restrictive or limited entry-policy at tourist attractions during the holiday. Preemptive measures such as measuring visitors' temperature, prohibiting unnecessary gatherings and requiring all travelers to wear face masks and maintain social distancing in public should be mandatory. The prevention and control measures should be strengthened and supervision improved, especially because the threat of the virus may not subside in the near future. The authorities, commercial establishments and consumers have to understand and cooperate with each other to keep safe while boosting consumption and facilitating the development of the service industry. It is also important to adopt anti-pandemic measures according to local conditions to cut the transmission chains of the virus. The central and local governments have adopted multiple policies to support the service industry following the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, they need to evaluate and adjust those policies to meet the new demands of epidemic prevention and control. It is important to pay attention to the many new challenges the epidemic has given rise to. For example, the epidemic has impacted people's mental health and quality of life, which means many require regular counseling and other medical help. The epidemic has also prevented many from enjoying holidays by visiting different tourist sites in different parts of the country, and travelling abroad, which has dealt a heavy blow to the tourism and hospitality industry. So, the tourism industry should improve its service quality and promote short-distance travel to sustain their business. And hotels and restaurants should take strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Service sector enterprises should appropriate high-tech, which offers new opportunities, to use innovative ways to attract more consumers. For instance, restaurants can promote "in house-takeout" service so they can serve a wider group of customers. Quite a few catering companies are using the "Internet Plus Initiative" to expand their businesses, while some have extended their online-to-offline business to third-and fourth-tier cities to expand their reach and increase their revenue. Travel agencies should work with upstream and downstream companies to improve their business mode and strategy, make long-term planning for service development and apportion their expenses, so they can provide unique tourism experiences to people. And equipment and facilities lying idle at scenic spots and hotels should be checked, upgraded and sanitized to prevent accidents and infections, tourism and catering companies should put in extra efforts to ensure travel ticket and hotel reservations are confirmed, and tours properly arranged to prevent unnecessary crowding in public places. To ensure people in the tourism and catering industry don't lose their jobs, local governments should provide career guidance for employees, take proper stock of the problems the industry faces, help enterprises and workers to negotiate payment and fix working hours, and organize training programs for workers so they can sharpen their skills and increase their incomes. They should also help the enterprises to launch service platforms to provide detailed information and guidance for workers. Compared with other industries, the tourism industry is more vulnerable to external impacts, and only regular emergency management and quality service can promote its sustainable development. The author is director of the Tourism Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily. If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.