The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) is no longer depending on its booking statistics windows for accurate information on tourist arrivals, as the COVID-19 protocols and cancellation policies put in place by airlines and hotels allow for shorter booking windows and easier cancellation policies that make arrival predictions murky.
According to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, the MOTA’s reliance on bookings statistics windows like ForwardKeys to give it an indication of what tourism numbers can look like in the future, has lessened of late given that both airlines and hotels have given their clients and guests the opportunity to cancel reservations closer to the time of travel than they have ever before, all as a result of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, according to D’Aguilar, the country can only look at the future bookings on the statistics sites it uses and hope that those bookings turn into actual vacation stays.
He said people are making decisions on vacations closer to the time they plan to take them, in order to reduce their uncertainty.
However, with hotels and airlines allowing cancellations so easily, he said there is no guarantee those bookings will turn into vacations.
“People are making their trips very shortly before they leave and then they are constantly changing their minds because the airlines give them the option to do so,” he said.
“Whereas in the past people would plan well in advance and there were penalties for changing trips, all of that is not in place, so it’s kind of hard to speculate who is coming.
“Now you can look at the bookings and that gives you an indication, but you have to see who decides to go on the vacation.”
He added that people have also been booking shorter vacations and shopping for the best deals, but as the vaccines continue to be distributed across the world, these trends are likely to change.
“As more and more people get comfortable with the fact that the vaccine is rolling out, there’s a quiet optimism building,” D’Aguilar said.
“The cases in the United States are down substantially. Notwithstanding these virulent strains coming on board, there seems to be an optimism building with the number of cases reducing substantially and the number of people in hospital beginning to diminish.
“As the vaccine rolls out, the numbers drop, we expect tourism numbers to build. There’s a belief that I buy into that things will slowly get better as the year progresses.”