There may be some optimists who believe tourism will bounce back to where it was pre-pandemic, but that ignores the reality that tourism shouldn't return to where it once was.
SKIFT GLOBAL FORUM | SEPTEMBER 21-23 | ONLINE CONFERENCE | THE DECADE AHEAD: SAFEGUARDING TRAVEL’S FUTURE
Ten years ago, the tourism industry was on the precipice.
A perfect storm of factors — the democratization of online booking, the entry of Airbnb and other cheaper accommodation options, the growth of low cost carriers, and the experience economy broadcast from our phones — were all poised to create a decade of explosive growth for the tourism industry.
It’s rare that such multivariate growth comes to such an abrupt end, but in 2020 it did. Spectacularly so.
The big question, of course, is what the next decade looks like. The answer depends on all kinds of factors, from what the model of tourism board funding will look like once the dust settles, to whether the traveler herself will feel the same about criss-crossing the world after a year of profound global disruption.
One thing is clear though: The next decade of tourism won’t look like the last. Nor should it. This topic will be be explored in a September 22 panel at Skift Global Forum, taking place online later this month.
As Skift wrote early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the global disruption that shook the foundations of the travel and tourism industry wasn’t entirely unexpected. It just came much sooner than we expected — and took the form of a virus, rather than climate change. But the latter is still poised to change the world too, and the tourism industry would be foolish to stage a recovery from Covid-19 that doesn’t keep that grave reality front and center.
This being the travel industry, there will of course be a slew of buzzwords that try to capture what’s coming next: regenerative travel, slow travel etc. Perhaps buzzwords are easier to embrace than the more sobering truth that the fallout of Covid-19 and growing global instability will likely mean that the kind of meteoric growth (and cashflow) that characterized the last ten years is not coming back.
Destinations, tourism boards, and governments will need to face that reality head on. They will have to craft tourism strategies that aren’t based on growing visitor volume, that talk less about the gauzy concept of “sustainability” and more about the harsh reality of climate change, and that recognize that while tourism can certainly serve as an economic engine for developing economies, relying on it comes with all kinds of risks and externalities.
How will the tourism industry face this challenge? Will they remain in denial that the good old days can be reclaimed? Will changing market forces do much of the work for them?
The next decade is anyone’s guess. We’ll certainly be watching.
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Photo credit: The next 10 years of tourism won't be like the last. Erik Odiin / Unsplash