There are two problems that currently affecting the international tourism industry: COVID-19 and the fear of failure. How is it possible to bear the brunt about what’s going on?
Today COVID-19 is challenging the world: the lack of vaccine and the limited medical capacity, the restrictions, the inability to travel and the stay-at-home orders, have caused an unprecedented disruption of the global economy.
National and international travel bans have affected over 90% of the world’s population. The widespread restrictions on public meetings and community mobility have led to the stop of tourism since the beginning of 2020, due to its characteristic of being a sector particularly susceptible to measures to counteract the pandemic phenomenon.
In the frantic communication of today, there is no calm or reflexivity and this also pours over the perceptions of the public. It was inevitable that the media effect of “terror” would bring with it a trail of uncertainty and a sense of insecurity in those most sensitive and vulnerable sectors.
So what could operationally be done to face the crisis up to such an important and driving sector as the tourism, while ensuring greater safety for tomorrow’s tourists? What tourism entrepreneurs need today?
Essentially providing tourists with operational, communicative, cognitive and appropriate tools for the place they intend to visit, not considering the tourist as a passive agent, but as an active and participant. Surely entrepreneurs in the sector should not lack the ability to adapt to the current market, the needs to be met and the customers’ expectations.
Real and clear communication will be the basis on which to rebuild solid foundations.
While highly uncertain, UNWTO’s first projections for 2020 suggest that international arrivals could decrease by 20-30% from 2019, which would translate into tourist revenue losses of $ 300-450 billion. Much higher is the estimate by WTTC (2020), which predicts a loss of up to 2.1 trillion dollars. Although significant fiscal programs have already been implemented, it is currently unclear how these will benefit the tourism sector or whether they will actually stimulate tourism demand.
When the crisis is completely over, there will be an urgent need not to return to business-as-usual, but rather to evaluate the opportunity to reconsider a transformation of the global tourism system more aligned with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
Pandemics are unlike many other disasters or crises that tourism has experienced, but as with any latter cases, consumer and industry confidence will increase or decrease in relation to media reporting on the impacts of COVID-19 and government interventions to boost the economy.
It is clear that without mobility there will be no tourism. The removal of restrictions on a global scale will be an integral part of the recovery of the tourism market. As the pandemic subsides, the world will be poorer and more divided. There will be strong political and industrial pressure to restart the economy as quickly as possible and generate jobs in a period of severe global economic recession.
The recovery will be uneven, as some markets will be aligned early in the reboot. For most countries, the restarting of tourism will take place at a national level and will probably include campaigns to promote domestic tourism to encourage all of us to travel locally and regionally, restore the economy and for continued COVID-19 surveillance and safety. The emphasis on saving local restaurants, traveling to reconnect with loved ones, essential business trips, parks and nature tourism where physical distancing can be met, will be at the center of reviving tourism in its early stage. Tourism for the elderly will continue to be discouraged or limited due to the vulnerability to the virus, while sports tourism and international travel will be limited until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed, not until 12 – 18 months.
Resilience research tells us that the guidelines for transformation and change are multiple and adds there will be many actions with which in some locations, companies and communities will seek to transform and change the way in which tourism and hospitality is managed. In this case we talk about resilient tourism: a tourism that will have the ability to cope up with traumatic events in a positive way, to positively reorganize one’s way of being in front of difficulties, to reinvent oneself by seizing the “opportunities offered”, without alienating one’s own identity.
“Stay home today. Travel tomorrow” is the slogan of UNWTO to support tourism entrepreneurs from all over the world.
So what will be the future of the tourism market? Today the aim is not to keep up with competitors, who have grown enormously, but to be so good to ride opportunities and be able to reinvent themselves; to be so different and unique to make competitors absolutely irrelevant and capable to overcome this hard but passing phase. Resilience, communication and uniqueness to don’t give up and do last over time.