Will the industry seize this historic moment to go beyond discourse, and rebuild in a way that puts communities first?
With breaking news of U.S. borders reopening to world travelers in November, plus more regions — namely in Asia and Africa — now gearing up to welcome more tourists in spite of ongoing vaccine inequity and uncertainty ahead, global tourism appears to be turning the darkest corner of the pandemic.
Travel is set to relaunch at a fuller scale across the world looking ahead at the winter months and going into 2022, for the first time since the crisis hit, even if with a gradual approach.
The momentum is here, and optimism is on the rise. That’s why now is the time, as the industry shifts gears into “living with” the pandemic’s challenges, for tourism to implement the lessons learned over the past 18 months.
No more pledges — the moment has come for tourism leaders in the public and private sector to bring action to the intentions voiced over the past 18 months to “build back better” as an industry — an industry that must grow in a community inclusive manner post-pandemic.
And that’s not just because the planet demands it, but because communities are indeed no longer spectators in an industry that significantly impacts their home, livelihoods and well-being. As we’ve witnessed before and during this global crisis in destinations ranging from Hawaii to Venice, residents can no longer be treated as third parties and lie at the crux of the industry’s future success.
But will travel and tourism executives’ discourse on building a more transparent, equitable and diverse industry, one that will measure the true cost and benefit of tourism, and one that will maximize benefits for communities, turn into action?
Or will the need to recover and the ambition to boost tourism revenue back to 2019 levels at all costs and bring back tourism jobs to get the wheels turning again obscure the urgency in innovating the tourism chain, leaving us with fragmented, dispersed commitments and pledges to sustainability?
Against the backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week, the climate emergency will take center stage, rightly so. But the travel industry’s resolve must also echo loudly in parallel, on the urgency of unlearning old travel habits and collaboratively redesigning an industry that not only plans to prioritize climate but also communities as rightful players in a pre-Covid $9.2 trillion industry making up 10 percent of global gross domestic product.
As Skift Global Forum discussions unfold over the next days, travel industry leaders across the chain have a chance to show they mean action and bring forth to the table actual solutions for community-minded growth, while embracing the fresh ideas that will emerge this week with the collaborative, open spirit that embodies the business we are in: tourism.
Because the reality is, time’s up. The planet won’t wait and neither will communities.
Photo credit: Will tourism build back better post pandemic? Time for leaders to bring forth solutions at Skift Global Forum 2021. itsmelive / Flickr Commons