Atout France has also been in regular touch with the travel trade and has been keen on updating them on the evolution of the situation in France. Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France India feels that communicating relevantly and effectively across multiple platforms will be crucial in driving the recovery of the industry. She shares with TTJ, about the learning of the pandemic, their current focus, and some measures to deal with the huge transformation and changes that has affected the travel industry.
While authorities in France have eased out international entry restrictions from June 9 based on COVID-19 activity in destination countries, they have introduced a colour-coded system to classify countries based on epidemiological risk, namely “green”, “orange”, and “red”.
India currently comes under the red category and includes countries like Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Turkey, Uruguay, and South Africa. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers are subject to the same restrictions except vaccinated travellers may self-isolate for seven days and unvaccinated travellers must enter 10-day quarantine under the supervision of security forces. Travellers will also be required to present proof of a reason for travel, a negative COVID-19 test no more than 48 hours old, and will be subject to a rapid antigen test.
Authorities previously had tightened international entry restrictions for travellers from the UK due to concerns over variant COVID-19 strains. Authorities are also currently maintaining travel restrictions with the red-listed countries for the same reason.
Speaking about the impact of the more than year-long pandemic, Sheetal says, “While we have always known for our sector to be very volatile and vulnerable to external factors of influence, and at the same time, one that is most resilient, this pandemic is certainly the most unprecedented crisis that the world has experienced. We still believe that the travel sector will bounce back worldwide and in India and ex-India in particular. The phases between the lockdowns have been testimony to the pent-up demand for travel both domestic and outbound destinations that the Indian traveller had access to. We also believe that the pandemic has further heightened the need to live in the moment and to invest in one’s self and not just forecast and invest in the future. This mindset will most certainly translate into enhancing the appeal, quality and demand for travel post pandemic.”
Throughout the pandemic, Atout France focused on adapting to the situation as it unfolds. They are constantly reinventing themselves and staying relevant to the part they need to play as a National Tourism Board. Right after the outburst of the pandemic, Atout France took on the mandate for domestic tourism for the first time to generate travel within France in 2020 and they continue to do so.
“A slew of tools were deployed to ensure that our stakeholders on both ends of the spectrum were kept abreast with the fast-evolving changes. Interactive maps tracking the impact on our key source markets, reinforcement of our PR and Corporate communications to keep our source markets aware of the situation in France, digitising our activities and sustaining our long-standing relationships as well as upskilling, strategising and strengthening our own resource pool within the organisation through restructuring, diversifying expertise, redefining our segments and gearing up towards a resurgence of a new avatar of travel including redefining our offering to meet renewed expectations that encompass conscious travel, regenerative travel, refined TGs, travel patterns and aspirations, Our focus remains to stay committed to our mission of securing the place of France as a world leader in tourism and staying invested in our source markets,” informs Sheetal.
Presently, we all live in a world of over information and we are inundated with news, snippets, videos, and messages from various quarters and on various platforms. Sheetal feels that as an industry, each stakeholder can take the onus of disseminating the right relevant info through ratified sources to avoid the spread of panic and lead to decisions based on being ill-informed.
“We have seen this happen not only with reference to factual and reliable information being shared about travel rules and regulations but also a true sense of community with helping out in collating and disseminating information related to the crisis at hand, as well as encouraging and supporting new initiatives that the fraternity has forayed into in the interim,” says Sheetal.
The travel industry is ever-evolving and is going to be one that will have witnessed a huge transformation, knowledge sharing and empowering parallel sectors with the savoir-faire of ongoing changes as well as unique product offerings that may better align with the travel trends that await us. These will hold the industry in good stead to be better enablers and facilitators each in their own capacity.
Sheetal concludes, “Adopting newer technologies, platforms and enhancing our skills as an industry in these domains to keep pace with the consumer, being more conscious in our choices, incorporating sustainable and collaborative strategies to play our part as an industry that thrives of change and evolution are steps we can collectively undertake as an industry and lead by example.”