Communication is the key factor to bounce back but it should be open and honest

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 12.14.20Andrew Jones is the Vice Chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). He was in the capital to support and share his ideas on recovery of Nepal’s tourism sector. Jones has long and wide experience in crisis management and helped countries such as Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka revive after natural calamities and war. Jones spoke with Prakriti Pathak of THT Perspectives about the recovery task and strategy to bounce back. Excerpts:

How is PATA helping in the revival of Nepal’s tourism?
What we determined was that the best way to help is to get together the task force of industry, professionals and specialist who can come and help with the recovery process. We had prepared a document which outlined 14 different aspects of setting up the recovery plan, such as, formation of a tourism recovery committee, appointing the chief communication officer through Nepal Tourism Board or from PATA Nepal Chapter. Currently, we are gathering information on reports, analysing the real situation and looking into critical issues that need to be addressed. We are working on a recovery plan with clear guidelines and an action plan that will be out by mid-June. Apart from technical and motivational support, PATA is also looking into funding for the recovery process. Our focus is on recovery and long term sustainable development of tourism in Nepal. We have committed to mobilise resources at PATA headquarters and other chapters specially in India and China which is a huge market for Nepal. We are engaging on how the PATA India Chapter and China Chapter can support and drive business here. To revive Nepal Tourism as a brand we are in consultation with some international brand experts.

Can you share more on the recovery plan and guidelines you are working on?
It is very early to comment on anything as we are still working on it. We will have short term, medium and long-term plan for both the government and private sector to revive tourism. By mid-June we will able to share it.

What needs to be done immediately to speed up the recovery process?
We are setting goals for Autumn season. For this, first and foremost thing that we need to do is to enhance communication to the outside world. We need to promote the unaffected areas of Nepal. There are many tourists’ destinations, unaffected by the earthquake, which needs to be highlighted in the media. We can seek help from Hollywood celebrities who have extended support to Nepal during the disaster phase. Similarly, familiarisation trips will work to promote Nepal in the international market. And the last thing we need to do is drive business through different network. Differ ent events and activities are needed to promote Nepal and it is important to merge and sync all these activities.

How should the government and private sector work in this situation?
We had a brainstorming session with the government, private and other stakeholders associated with the tourism sector. They are proactive and eager to get things done. Our challenge is to make sure we have the right process and proper strategy. The government is also keen though they have some challenges. The best way to work it out is through public private cooperation to speed up the recovery process. For this we need good governance. It is very important to have a unified approach to the recovery plan. It is up to the people of Nepal to take the ownership and implement the plan accordingly. PATA can channel their interest, energy and efforts. This is the time for Nepalis to look at this situation as an opportunity and take away the negative impact in all communication.

What is your suggestion for tourism entrepreneurs?
Both personally and professionally, I do not recommend the industry drop their prices or give big discounts unless it is for a certain market segment like for domestic tourism or for a certain time. Dropping your prices, in fact, does not benefit business financially and the quality of service will be hampered. It is better to give additional value services to guests. There are various ways to do this and it is up to individual businesses to determine what is best for them. It is time to focus more on infrastructure. If the government enhances infrastructure then the private sector can come in and do more. Or government can give incentives to the private sector to mobilise them for the development of infrastructure. Nepal can learn from Thailand and other countries that bounced back quickly from disasters. Managing communication on different social media and marketing strategy is a must. As I said earlier, communication is the key factor to bounce back but it should be open and honest. The thing that has really impressed me is the youth of Nepal who have really come together to put the country back on its feet. This reflects the positivity around. Likewise, seeing images of army and police personnel doing an excellent job spreads a postive message in the international media too. This is good as it will create the ripple effect.

Source: The Himalayan Times

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