Despite the current turbulence in the tourism market, experts are seeing blue skies ahead.  As the vaccination programme gathers pace and infection rates continue to fall in most parts of the world, travel will return but it’s hoped that we’ll do it better and more ethically and responsibly.

The Simpleview team has been scanning the press over recent months to identify any trends which we may start to see as the industry gets back on its feet…

Sustainability & Ecotourism

One of the few benefits to come out of the pandemic has been the environmental comeback, with improvements in air quality in cities around the globe, lower levels of water and noise pollution and evidence of the return of nature in areas where it had disappeared.   It is predicted that people will seek out destinations with responsible travel policies and the industry will respond, with health taking priority over profit margins following the recovery phase.  

Over-tourism has been reported in many popular destinations including Machu Picchu, Venice, Barcelona and Iceland where the negative impacts including rising house prices, damage to the natural environment and overcrowding have all been experienced.  The pandemic has created an opportunity to re-set, reimagine and reconfigure tourism.  

Last September, 22 European cities had an opportunity to meet with the European Commission leader to call for stricter regulations for holiday rentals.  In Venice, phone data informs officials on where tourists are from, the duration of their trip and where they visit. In Florida, residents in Key West have approved referendums to limit cruise visitors. 

Technology will play a more important role.  Distancing and hygiene protocols are likely to be around for the foreseeable future so touchless service delivery and investments in digital technology will help aid recovery for the sector.

We may see a shift from mass tourism to Ecotourism, with people staying at certified green hotels, visiting green attractions and reducing or offsetting their carbon footprint.  People may venture to lesser-known, smaller or developing communities which are struggling post-pandemic to support their economies.  Tourism businesses may increasingly forge links with non-tourism sectors such as agriculture, entertainment and manufacturing.  For example, Jamaica has launched an online platform to allow buyers in the hotel industry to directly purchase produce from local farmers.  

The ultimate objective is to make tourism better for guests and locals and broaden destinations’ economies so they are no longer over-reliant on tourism.

Staycations

The increased interest in staycations is already evident due to a reluctance to risk the uncertainty of air travel and a general preference for people to stay somewhere where they feel more in control and aware of the current COVID situation.

It is thought that this may even lead to long-term revival of some resorts as the combination of warmer weather and a desire for more sustainable and environmentally friendly travel will make them desirable destinations.

We’re already seeing destinations introducing new initiatives in an attempt to kick-start the sector.  Projects like the North of England City Experience and VisitLiverpool’s ‘Love Your Liverpool’ are great examples of destinations encouraging people to support their local economies and explore the potential closer to home. Further afield in Vancouver special discounted rates for attractions and hotels for locals have been introduced as part of the #VancouverComeBack campaign and in Costa Rica national holidays have temporarily moved to Mondays to extend the weekend to encourage domestic tourism. 

Taking to the Road

As mentioned earlier, avoiding air travel may be a priority for some travellers in the early stages of recovery, with the road trip presenting a viable alternative.  

Sales of motorhomes and campervans in Europe are currently at record levels with many new entrants to the market.  In July 2020 in the UK, registrations were 71% higher than in July 2019.

Destinations which feature dedicated Tours pages on their sites could prove popular, with ideas for accommodation, things to see, places to eat en route and general practical information all available. Check out Visit Scotland’s Driving and Road Trips and Fjord Norway’s Norwegian Scenic Routes pages for some great examples.

Wellness Tourism

Some tourists may not want to return to the fast-lane, particularly those dealing with the more lasting impacts of COVID-19, so they may seek out ways to escape from the stress of modern day life.

It’s been reported that the value of wellness tourism worldwide is predicted to rise from US$639 billion in 2017 to US$919 billion by 2022 and there’s been a general growth in search activity around keywords such as ‘wellness destinations’.  Destinations offering activities such as yoga, meditation and pilgrimage routes are expected to benefit from increased demand.

Wellness related activities can form part of the armoury for encouraging domestic tourism too. So DMOs can focus on their destinations’ health and wellbeing related activities such as spa days, retreats, galleries or just its natural beauty.  It’s been reported that many communities have found comfort in rediscovering this right on their own doorstep.  

For inspiration, check out Visit Scotland’s dedicated Wellness pages, offering a whole variety of ideas from forest bathing to wellness walks.

A Quest for Isolation

People may feel insecure in the initial phases of recovery so wanting to escape the crowds and avoid busy cities and popular beach resorts and opt for private villas and boutique hotels at quieter coastal, mountain and lake retreats could be a priority for some.  Our new site for Valdres offers some ‘unique accommodation’, from treetop cabins to farm huts where peace and quiet is guaranteed. 

Longer Holidays

Before lockdown, the world was accelerating at an unsustainable pace. Post-COVID people are expected to opt for a slower pace, valuing the time to experience things properly.

Luxury travel specialists, Cox & Kings have reported seeing greater interest in their longer itineraries, with more nights spent in each destination, a trend mirrored by findings from booking engine Opodo, who say 30% of trips booked for the first quarter of next year are longer than 15 days.

Original Travel go one step further, saying interest in sabbaticals is growing. They cite rolled-over annual leave as one of the explanations.

This may result in us wanting to travel to places for a little bit longer, rush around less and spend more time trying to get under the skin of a place.

Digital Nomads

As the gig economy gathers momentum, more and more professionals will choose to work and travel at the same time. And, as the number of digital nomads grows in 2021, so too will the infrastructure designed to support them.

Accor hotels across the UK are already opening up their hotel rooms for daytime 'Hotel Offices'.  All people need is a clean environment and a stable internet connection. There’s additional potential to sell them breakfast and lunches also.

Multi-Generational Trips

Many travel companies are already seeing an increasing number of enquiries for multi-generational trips and large groups of friends who are looking to reconnect with one another following a long period of isolation.  

In Europe, demographic trends such as ageing of the tourism market, lower birth rates and smaller family sizes are driving multi-generational travel.  Certain types of holiday such as heritage trips (to locations where the family may have roots), exclusive use trips (private villas, yachts) and cruises are all expected to grow in popularity. 

Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

Living through a pandemic has been a catalyst for some, with people having time to take stock and re-evaluate what’s important in their lives.  There’s been plenty of time to think about bucket lists such as epic rail journeys, safaris and generally longer trips as opposed to shorter weekends away so we can expect to see increased bookings for these types of holiday.

At some point, travel is set to make a strong return but the pace of recovery will be dependent on global developments.  We hope that the more caring attitudes that have prevailed during the pandemic will translate into how we perceive travel, gearing our priorities towards slower travel with a focus on local communities and the environment.
 

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