Breaking Travel News here chats to Mushtak Gafoor, chief executive and manging director, Farhat Tours about his approach to the challenges set by Covid-19, and his thoughts on new travel trends.
Breaking Travel News: What is Farhat Tours’ business model, and what changes in the way you operate have you had to implement due to Covid-19?
Mushtak Gafoor: Since its inception in 2007, Farhat Tours is a destination management company by nature.
As a DMC, we promote our beautiful island country Bahrain to world travellers.
Being in the trade for over 14 years, we provide unmatched quality services to explore and enjoy Bahrain.
The pandemic has made some radical and unexpected changes to the nature of travel trade business.
We also had to acclimatise ourselves with the world.
There are so many changes from small to major in our offered services, right from reducing maximum occupancy of the vehicle for transfers and tours, to emphasising on the health safety of the guests on every step in Bahrain.
As the inbound business has taken a steep decline in 2020, coming up with an innovative business model such as a quarantine package of Bahrain.
BTN: How have the global travel restrictions, in particular the constantly shifting travel corridors, impacted your operations as a DMC over the past year?
MG: Biggest obstacle in forming any business recovery strategy was volatility and uncertainty of the re-opening of the borders to tourists.
Though everyone wanted and expected that international travel restrictions would be removed sooner, the reality remains that most countries are discouraging international movements in order to prevent virus spreading.
As a DMC organisation, we have very limited avenues to explore if tourists are not allowed to enter your homeland and worst due to severity of the pandemic, there is no definite time frame or road map which gives indication of good news.
Breaking Travel News: Why is collaboration across the travel industry essential to navigating the post-pandemic landscape?
MG: Tourism industry is one of the worst impacted sectors due to the pandemic and hence, solutions and recovery will only come when the tourism fraternity as whole works hand-in-hand to form the business revival plan.
It is important that tourism government bodies, travel associations and smaller conglomerations of travel groups assist each other and come out with safer and healthier ways for tourists to travel worry free.
One of the major obstacles currently faced is travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantine periods or high costs of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests which discourage people from travelling.
We suggest that restrictions be eased out but in order to maintain social distancing, there should be slots for visitors at all touristic places and maximum capacity of each timing in order to avoid overcrowding.
This will also give opportunity to guests to enjoy the place in better way without worrying about being exposed to too many tourists.
BTN: What advice from your own experiences would you offer to other DMCs?
MG: From our past learning, we suggest having an optimistic mindset towards future business.
Evaluate each business opportunity in detail to ensure maximum output of it.
Be innovative to holidaymaker in order to offer unique options given the situation i.e. we have collaborated with few elite properties in Bahrain to offer Work from Hotel packages for domestic travellers.
We included all the meals in the hotel packages so guests do not have to leave their premises and have relaxing holidays.
We also made packages for quarantine options.
We promoted heavily self-drive options which was really well received by guests.
BTN: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the pandemic?
MG: We are anticipating that tourists would prefer isolated destination or will travel to less explored destinations in order to avoid crowding.
Tourists will be giving more importance to adventure vs relaxation balance while planning their holidays.
Tourists will prefer more self-drive options wherever possible in order to have more safety and maintain social distancing.
Breaking Travel News: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?
MG: Yes definitely, every crisis has silver lining. We firstly learnt the value of freedom in real sense.
This lockdown has taught not to take our freedom to roam around freely for granted.
The situation compelled us to think out of box to gain new business and this was the biggest take from Covid-19 crisis for us.
We shall continue to be innovative with our product offerings and give distinctive experiences to our valued clients.
Farhat Tours is considered Bahrain’s Leading Destination Management Company by voters at the World Travel Awards.
Find out more on the official website.