We talked with business owners and senior managers in the hospitality industry about the impacts of COVID-19 on popular destinations. They share their experience with the pandemic and how they prepare for the “new normal”.
Of course the impact of Covid-19 is huge on the travel industry but thankfully it came towards the end of the high season. We decided in March to keep all staff and use our existing assets (office, staff and network around the country) to set-up two new social businesses: https://honeybeemyanmar.com and https://www.kumelmyanmar.org/ so at least we can one day look back at something positive that came out of this crisis.
As it’s possible again for domestic tourists to travel easily and without any paperwork to Mandalay, Bagan, northern and southern Shan states, Kayah, Mon and Kayin states we started to create new experience for Myanmar tourists and expats travelling in June, July, August and September. We still have bookings from Western clients for August and September as they are interested to visit Myanmar if there are international flights available without compulsory quarantine regulations.
I do foresee that we will have more international travellers arriving by October and that’s really needed as a lot of our regular suppliers and their staff really need the income to take care of their families.
Khiri Travel Myanmar
“All of our spring and summer bookings have been postponed indefinitely and we have very little confirmation for the upcoming high season, as clients are waiting to book until they know it is safe to travel again. Thankfully we have very low overheads as most of our team work on a freelance basis, but there are still bills to pay so we are minimizing our expenses as best we can. I expect these low numbers to remain until Q4 of 2021, so in the meantime we are focusing on streamlining our office systems and, as soon as we can get out and about freely, we plan to research new excursions and adventures in upper Myanmar.
Travelers will want to plan meaningful trips as, now that this privilege has been temporarily taken away, the value of traveling is more apparent. Because of this I believe people will shy away from big group tours and focus more on immersive experiences. This is where Myanmar has huge potential to grow as it is one of the few places in the world with its culture and traditional ways of life largely intact. Allowing more homestay experiences, developing more adventures in remote areas and preventing the destruction of natural environments will attract this type of tourist.”
Myanmar Pure Travel
“This year tourists have stopped coming since March. We had a few guests who were stuck in Bagan for 2 weeks in Feb finding flights to go back to their home country after their 10 day visit to Myanmar. COVID-19 was a massive hit, harder than the SARS (2004), and H1N1 (2009). We still had tourists coming in during the previous outbreaks.
The staff might not return after the lockdown as they might have moved on to find jobs outside tourism. Some staffers may have left the town for better opportunities. Most employees do not want to come to work due to the pandemic. So we have very limited staff.
Domestic travel will resume soon. I think international tourists will not be coming until 2021-22. Local people are dying to travel, since they have stayed home for months.
Our hotel never relied on the Chinese market, but survived on usual regular guests within the country and from the West. Definitely we will have to rely on the locals and expats for the next 2 years. We will have to also rely on other various markets, not just the West.”
Thante Hotel, Nyaung Oo
Shan State (Inle and Nyaung Shwe)
“We receive foreign tourists from October until the end of March or April. We consider that period as the high season. Between April and September, we normally receive very few tourists. We had to stop all business activities starting from the 3rd week of March due to COVID-19. Since it’s already the end of high season, the impact of COVID-19 on the 2019-2020 high season is not that serious.
But everybody in the tourism business is worried about the 2020-2021 and afterwards. We can be sure that tourism will not be recovered until 2023. So, many people in the tourism industry are trying to change their livelihoods.
I am also trying to start another business as I will not be able to survive with my transport business alone. ”
A transport business owner on the condition of anonymity.
Last year was really good – we had over 3,200 guests. But this year we didn’t meet that target due to COVID-19. If there were no booking cancellations, we would have more guests than the previous year.
The major challenges we’re facing are 1) transportation, which is very expensive because of double charges to reduce the people [on express buses] in line of social distancing guidelines; 2) the government’s policies to prevent COVID-19 – it’s not easy for foreigners to enter.
Now we’re focusing on domestic tourism. We offer special package rates and train the staff in standard operating procedures for safety of our guests. And also a new attractive menu.
Ko Ko Lay
Keinnara Loikaw Hotel
“Hilton is defining a new standard of hotel cleanliness called Hilton CleanStay to elevate hygiene practices from Check-In to Check-Out. Hilton CleanStay builds upon the already high standards of housekeeping and hygiene at Hilton properties, where hospital-grade cleaning products and upgraded protocols will be in use. The goal of Hilton CleanStay is to provide guests with assurance and peace of mind when they stay with us. The initiative will create a focus on cleanliness that will be visible to guests throughout their entire stay – in their guest rooms, restaurants, fitness center and in other public spaces. And throughout the new cleaning process, hotel team members will be provided with personal protective equipment and enhanced training designed to protect their well-being while continuing to deliver unmatched Hilton hospitality.”
Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa
“The Coronavirus Pandemic has a massive impact on tourism and consequently on our hotel as well. Boulder Bay Eco Resort like many other properties had to close down during the quarantine period and that put pressure in our whole operations. With the right planning, we managed to keep all our staff and not lay off anyone during these difficult times. Same applies for our sister company Moby Dick T&T that operates the Island Safari Tours in Myeik Archipelago. We tried to take this time to regroup our team and make a plan on how we will move forward when things go back to “normal”.
The biggest challenge that we are facing right now is that most of our clients before were from Europe, from where we project a slower recovery since long haul flights have been reduced significantly.
We will do everything we can to ensure travel safety by following the directives from WHO and the Ministry of Hotel & Tourism.
Looking forward, since the domestic market will be the first segment that will start travelling again we will focus a lot on attracting customers that live in Myanmar and surrounding areas. We are preparing various campaigns and promotions that will start running from July so stay tuned :-). ”
Sales & Marketing Manager
Boulder Bay Eco Resort