Simply waiting for Europe to "get its shot together" isn't an option, say tourism leaders. Destinations have to plan today to win back their fair share of demand tomorrow while juggling sustainability mandates. Tricky.
An indefinite tourism reduction or freeze has put pressure on destination marketing organizations during the pandemic. Tourism leaders must simultaneously prepare for a rebound in travel volumes, plan to disperse visitors to less trafficked areas, and figure out how to meet sustainability and diversity goals.
“For many years, destinations have been struggling with the complexity of the problem and translating that into actions that are meaningful,” said Signe Jungersted of Group NAO in a panel discussion with Wouter Geerts, Senior Research Analyst at Skift Research.
“The pandemic has taught us that a collaborative effort in sharing best practices is important,” Jungersted said. “Besides the climate crisis, we have a social crisis, too.”
Europe has had a summer of domestic travel, given that most overseas destinations have been effectively off-limits. A few tourism leaders have used this time to plan for the future, and they expressed cautious optimism during the Skift Destination and Sustainability Summit on Wednesday.
“The pandemic highlighted issues we were already facing,” said Udo of amsterdam&partners. “We have to ask what is a healthy visitor economy that adds value for residents and businesses as well as visitors.”
In the Spanish autonomous community of Valencia, water management has already become an important sustainability goal that tourism officials monitor. But the larger climate crisis has become a priority, too. Officials have developed a methodology to assess the carbon footprint in Valencia to let stakeholders know how many emissions they have to reduce. Tourism leaders would like to expand that system.
“We want to deploy the system to motivate tourists to change their behavior and reduce their carbon footprint and water consumption,” said Jaume Mata of Visit Valencia.
Making changes requires enlisting support from others in the community, the panelists agreed.
“DMOs are the people who already know everyone who are stakeholders,” said Udo of amsterdam&partners. “Co-creation is critical.”
Yet stakeholder engagement can also take up a considerable amount of time on top of existing duties for destination marketing organizations. Having structured projects and targeted goals can help keep discussions efficient, the tourism leaders said. For example, some destinations look at “sustainability” through three lenses: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and cultural sustainability.
“Along with the climate crisis, we now have multiple other crises, too,” said Petra Stušek of Ljubljana Tourism.
Fortunately, approaches to solving any one sustainability challenge can often also contribute to addressing the others.
“Tourism will return, or at least start to grow again,” Jungersted said. “But we won’t see it come back in the same shape and form. There will be some deep structural changes.”
Photo credit: The Park Centraal in Amsterdam. amsterdam&partners