Tourism 2021: the New Challenges
15th January 2021
2021 is finally here and for many people around the world, it could not have come soon enough. There is no question that the world has changed dramatically over the past 12 months for everyone as Covid-19 has touched every human life in some way, sadly with fatal consequences for many.
We have seen dramatic changes in working, living, relationship and travel patterns. We once took our freedom for granted and would plan holidays, short breaks, even days out with our friends and family without any thought or hesitation. Throughout 2020 - and for many people still in 2021 - that freedom simply no longer exists as we are back under varying degrees of local and international travel restrictions.
For many businesses these past 12 months have been a disaster. The obvious local trades have suffered: shops, cafes, hairdressers, personal trainers to name but a few. However, the inability to travel has also destroyed the tourism market around the world in many places who rely on the tourist dollar to stay afloat and support their families.
Even though a vaccine is now slowly being rolled out, the world will not open up again quickly and “normality” will not return in the same way as we knew it previously. It will potentially take at least a year for the world to settle down into something which resembles more normal travel patterns, and it will take even longer for any sense of pre-Covid tourism numbers to return. Airlines have gone bust, airline routes have been scrapped or scaled back, railways and long-distance bus companies have reduced their timetables, hotels and tourism offers have closed down or been mothballed.
This is where both the challenge and opportunity lies for future tourism around the world and this is where destinations need to be smarter now, while the world slowly catches its breath and opens up again.
fourLINK are very clear that tourism can bring investment into places which can help destinations become more self-sustaining in terms of income generation. If properly developed and managed, tourism can become a key driver to increasing the financial prosperity of the area, with the associated ripple effects that tourism creates. Entrepreneurship, SME development, skills development and talent attraction are key side effects which our work around the world has helped encourage on the back of tourist development.
Sustainable tourism has also been a key driver of local innovation, where initiatives are created focusing on a circular economy, where the income from tourism is used to create a better-quality local ecosystem, where resource use is reduced, waste is reduced, water quality is protected and more of a closed loop environment is put in place in order to balance increased visitors while minimising the impact on the natural environment.
2021 presents a new challenge for every destination, as every place is starting again as a blank slate, a re-launch based on not only the destinations' reputation, but a new opportunity. What will they do differently now in order to market themselves as different from every other destination? How will they re-attract the share of visitors as the world slowly reopens for business? How can they be more virus-safe while still offering value for money? How can they re-start bringing in the tourist dollar while protecting the local environment? These are questions which can only be answered in close dialogue with all project partners working together and reaching a consensus on a goal and vision.
This is the brave new world of tourism in 2021.