Mired in Uncertainty
Joe Chernov, a renowned marketing leader once said, “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.” The Covid-19 pandemic necessitates ‘great marketing’ for the tourism industry. While health and hygiene have always been the essential elements for travel & tourism competitiveness, the pandemic has brought enhanced global spotlight on the importance of these factors.
In a normal situation, tourism marketing is undertaken with a relatively high degree of certainty. And planning, setting budget, etc. are routine affairs. But the situation now is completely different. Hence, the marketing process is fraught with challenges and understanding the pulse of travellers is a key. In all probability, travellers are likely to embark towards destinations that are seen to be healthy, safe and clean, and also how effectively they have managed the pandemic. Besides this, investment in health infrastructure by destinations will play a critical role in attracting tourists. Frankly speaking, in the current scenario, the essence of marketing should revolve around addressing the FEAR (Fear of unknown, fear of being touched, fear of infection, fear of bringing back the virus, etc). So, those who can address this vital issue effectively and efficiently would be successful.
Coming to the Union Budget, which the travel & tourism and hospitality industry was waiting with bated breath for some relief has been a complete washout. The sector significantly contributes to country’s GDP and employment generation. Plus, the magnitude of destruction the Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted on the sector is unimaginable. Was it wrong to expect some handholding from the government? Although, the Budget has taken steps to improve regional connectivity by privatisation of airports in Tier-II and III cities, focusing on road and rail infrastructure these are all long-term measures. Against the backdrop of pandemic, the industry wanted something which could immediately soothe the nerves like exemption of taxes, release of SEIS benefits, etc.
The current plight of the industry reminds me a famous line of a song by Rabindranath Tagore, “If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone.”