As the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruptions in the tourism industry, the public, businesses and industries must rethink their sustainability and adaptation plans and strategies, and rebuild with an environmentally-friendly approach to stimulate the recovery of the tourism sector.
The year 2020 has been the most challenging year to date for the majority of the industries, with COVID-19 bringing the global economy to a crippling halt. As the world faces an unprecedented global health, social and economic emergency with the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel and tourism is among the most affected sectors. Representing 10% of global GDP, the industry faced a decline in international tourist arrivals, with airplanes on the ground, hotels closed and travel restrictions in countries all around the world, putting millions of direct tourism jobs at risk. For many developed and developing countries, the tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. Many environmental preservation efforts also greatly depend on the funding of tourism businesses. Tourism represents one of the most viable methods to raise awareness and attract resources to save wildlife, as well as to benefit local communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented socio-economic impacts and demonstrated the crucial role that sustainability plays in our society. This crisis has revealed a widespread lack of crisis resilience and strategic foresight in the tourism industry. Businesses must implement better risk management, and embody a holistic approach to sustainability.
Once the travel restrictions are lifted, everyone should learn from the pandemic to retool travel to be more sustainable. We should not return to business as usual, instead we must strive to promote the concept of a responsible recovery.
The local tourism offices must re-evaluate their operations, especially the safety and hygiene protocols, toward the new normal. Companies must support eco-friendly practices. Airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tour operators should make sure that the consumers feel comfortable and safe throughout their journey with enhanced safety measures.
As COVID-19 forced our lives to slow down, the travelers must consider a slower, more thoughtful approach to travel. We can simply keep more of our adventures local, travel to destinations accessible by car or by short domestic flights. Not only it is much closer to home so we could be able to save money and to return quickly if needed, but it also incentivizes the community, as it helps the tourism businesses closest to you, and it gets people to love and appreciate their own local culture. It will contribute to the economic recovery of one’s own community and adjacent communities. As we immediately come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still must travel with caution.
Governments must recommend policies to avert the worst effects and facilitate recovery of the tourism sector, considering the following factors: Duration of pandemic and availability of vaccine; lifting of travel restrictions, lockdown measures, social distancing impacts; and economic impact and consumers’ discretionary spending decisions.
All stakeholders must begin discussing a truly comprehensive, sustainable, digital and future-proof agenda for the world of tourism, to ensure that this remains a viable industry for future generations.