In Pakistan, tourism industry feels corona fever
Hotel booking rate dive from 95% to 40% by first week of March
KARACHI: The global spread of the coronavirus has devastated the tourism industry with major tourist destinations seeing limited visitors while several airlines are engaged in limiting their operations.
In this regard, multiple trade shows and conferences have been cancelled leaving no room for business and tourism, which has begun impacting the hospitality industry as well. Hotels in Pakistan are also bearing the brunt of the virus as citizens have been restricted from travelling due to which hotel bookings in major cities of the country have dropped significantly.
According to Pakistan Hotels Association Chairman Zubair Baweja, “The effects of coronavirus on Pakistan’s hotel industry started to weigh in from February, which intensified further by the first week of March.”
Several events in Pakistan were also cancelled due to non-participation of foreign delegates and major companies called off their events as well thus cancelling hotel bookings. He said that the business of all 200 members registered with the Pakistan Hotels Association has declined significantly.
Pakistan’s hotel industry lost Rs100 million in February alone due to a notable drop in the number of guests. The loss is set to decline further owing to the steadily increasing number of cases in the country. Baweja recalled that till January 2020, hotel booking rate was 95% which declined to 40% by the first week of March.
He expressed concern that complete lockdowns in Western countries, restriction of airlines’ operations and cancellation of events, scheduled to take place in Pakistan, due to security measures by the government could further reduce this number. He added that members of the Pakistan Hotels Association had improved sanitation facilities at their respective hotels to combat coronavirus and employees were also being trained to contain the epidemic.
The managements of hotels are further urging their guests to adopt self-discipline and not to participate in the scheduled events if they experience any symptoms of the virus such as flu or fever.
On the other hand, travel agents around the globe are also actively working day and night due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Most travel agents are currently engaged in providing their clients with an emergency change plan for their planned trips.
Majority of the travel agencies operating in Pakistan are currently occupied in bringing Pakistani travellers back from Saudi Arabia within a 72-hour deadline put in place by the Gulf country and to send Iqama holders in Pakistan back to Saudi Arabia within the timeframe.
According to Faisal Naeem, Chairman of Karachi Chamber of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Committee, “Coronavirus sparked a chaos throughout the world, which was affecting Pakistan’s travel industry as well.”
“Inward travel within Pakistan too has decreased significantly with outbound travelling,” he said, adding, “Travel trends have dropped by 60-70% in Pakistan due to the fear of coronavirus.”
Faisal said that the number of travellers leaving Pakistan for foreign countries was extremely limited particularly due to a lockdown in Europe coupled with issuance of travel directions from US aimed at travellers from different countries.
He speculated that the effects of the coronavirus would be witnessed throughout the year, affecting local travel as well as local transportation industry. He added that summer holidays used to be the peak tourism season in Pakistan, however, much of the business would be terminated now due to premature vacations announced in Sindh this year.
According to Naeem, due to an increase in Hajj expenses by the present government, the accumulated capital of the common class has been inadequate due to which, limited Hajj applications were received this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2020.
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