COVID-19, rethinking tourism?

Since three weeks the life as we know it in Germany have changed radically, and for someone as me who is working (yes, still working!) in the tourism industry, the changes have not gone unnoticed. The government has been taking drastic measures to control the spreading of the COVID-19. If these measures are justified or not will I leave for someone else to discuss, but one thing is sure, I am happy to be living in Germany and not in Sweden at the moment.

Even if the current situation is very unlucky and freighting I have to admit that I am excited to learn how this crisis will affect the tourism industry in the long run. Not only does this pandemic contribute to a global health crisis, it is also affects the world economy in a way we have never seen before, and while we are locked into our homes the nature is smiling back at us. Will we go back to our old habits when this is over? And will that even be possible?

I am currently receiving a lot of industry relevant newsletters, covering everything from legal notices regarding cancellations to legal assistance for stakeholders who are seeing their life work fall into pieces and how we are able to support them throughout the crisis, to marketing strategies for the coming months. What seems to lack is however a second thought on what might come next. This morning a Newsletter from a regional DMO, Pfalz Touristik, was waiting in my inbox and at the end there was a notice regarding “Maßnahmen für „danach“, translating to Measures for “afterwards”, indicating the period after the corona crisis. One or two sentences covered the fact that people (Germans) might not be able to go on their planned international holidays and will undertake more domestic travels, which I also believe will be the case. Maybe I am to defeatist, or maybe I just want this crisis to change our human behaviour from the ground, but it still seems to exist a common perception among stakeholders that we will somehow go on like before when the restrictions have been lifted.

But, will the tourism infrastructure even be here in a few months? Many stakeholders are already bankrupt and more will meet the same destiny in a few weeks or months. How will the tourism policy change, and for all, how will the foreign policy change, and what impact might it have on our daily life? Will it limit our ability to move as freely as before between countries?

With those questions raised I do not believe that it is time to panic. We are experiencing a massive interruption in our daily work (and life) routine at the moment. What we have to ask us is what opportunities do the current situation offer us? Sustainability is a well-used concept within the tourism sector, but in times like this we are really able to evaluate if the tourism policy we have been constructing and applying the last decade is sustainable or not. Not only in terms of the environment but also for the economy. It is a perfect moment to rethink tourism as we know it.

In an article from the 25th of March, the World Tourism organisation calls tourist entrepreneurs and innovations to action. The goal is find solutions in order to speed up the tourism sector recovery from the COVID-19. This challenge is launched in cooperation with the WHO and innovators are asked to “submit ideas that can help the tourism sector mitigate the impact of the pandemic and kickstart recovery efforts” (https://www.unwto.org/calling-on-innovators-and-entrepreneurs-to-accelerate-tourism-recovery).

The initiative is divided into three categories; Healing for People, Healing for Prosperity and Healing for Destinations and the submitted ideas should be ready to implement. For more information regarding the challenge please klick on the link below.

https://www.unwto.org/healing-solutions-tourism-challenge

I find this to be a very interesting initiative and I will follow it closely. What are your thoughts on this topic? How can we rethink tourism at the moment? And do we need to rethink tourism at all?

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