Zahirul Alam Bhuiyan, CEO, Discovery Tours and Logistics speaking to the industry stakeholders and concerned government officials at the video conference organised by PATA BD Chapter held to discuss post COVID-19 recovery measures
Dhaka: After the world finally frees itself from the deadly clutch of COVID-19, it may take 3-4 months for travel to resume. But it will begin with essential or business travel, not leisure. Therefore air ticketing will be the main selling product of tour operators, not their travel packages initially.
Zahirul Alam Bhuiyan, CEO, Discovery Tours and Logistic said this on April 17 during the second session of the weeklong video conference titled PATA Talk During Lockdown organised by Pacific Asia Travel Association Bangladesh Chapter.
"So we need to prepare ourselves to focus on air ticketing in the post COVID-19 era. However, there are some complications in this regard. We, tour operators, are supposed to get 7 per cent commission for air ticketing. Yet, after taxes, only 3 per cent remains," claimed Bhuiyan.
He urged that bodies such as Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) and Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) can play a key role to secure the just amount of ticket commission for the tour operators by addressing the issue to the concerned authorities.
Speaking of outbound tourism in the aftermath of the outbreak, Bhuiyan stated that tour operators should focus on the neighbouring countries or Southeast Asian market such as India, Nepal, China and others.
"For this purpose, we would need support of the tourism boards of those countries for visa purposes, just like they would require us to boost their tourist arrivals in the post outbreak period. Also, there are talks that the airfare might increase too, so in this case, we would expect some support from the airlines too."
On the other hand, as soon as the outbreak ends, the airlines operating in Bangladesh will aggressively start offering packages to attract passengers, Bhuiyan added.
"So, TOAB and ATAB should ensure the tour operators receive commission from the airlines."
In terms of immediate measures, Bhuiyan said that now the tour operators should utilise their time to figure out how they would approach the business once travel goes back to normal.
He also added, "To survive, we must minimise our cost. We can lower our office's operational cost by limiting the number of employees to a bare minimum. But that does not mean to cut off employees. We can still help the others while they remain at their home by paying only the amount they actually require to survive. They too should understand the current circumstances"
Running a virtual office from home is another effective cost-cutting measure, Bhuiyan claimed.
Another interesting point Bhuiyan suggested to minimise cost was considering mergers of companies like it is witnessed in other countries.
Moreover, the CEO of Discovery Tours and Logistics further emphasised that they can work towards self-development in the meantime by taking online tourism courses from international organisations or tourism boards.
"For instance, destination awareness and destination specialisation, these are necessary for us to know now. When the travel ban will lift, we must know about each individual destination and must offer specialised packages accordingly. This will enhance our capabilities and help us run tour operations to those countries," the CEO said.
He further mentioned to integrate other relevant ventures with tourism. For example, outbound tour operators can bring in Hajj and Umrah packages. Furthermore, who operate offline should consider turning their business to an online travel agency.
Lastly, Bhuiyan expressed his doubts on how the tour operators will be able to pay off the stimulus loan the government has announced with 4.5 per cent interest rate. "The government should see our accounts and understand our actual strength and then set an interest rate accordingly," he concluded.