The Corona crisis in Europe burst out 4 weeks ago. On March 12th, all Catalan schools closed, and not long after that entire Spain was quarantined. Almost all European countries followed with different lockdowns. The tourism sector and aviation have collapsed completely since the corona crisis.
The hard pill that many workers and companies now have to swallow in tourism is, of course, harrowing. Empty hotels during the Easter holidays, ghost towns and panic among the starters and people who will lose their income during summer as well. But what are the opportunities and chances for tourism professionals? How can we all be stronger, more creative and offer better services in the travel industry by 2021? Hereby my insights:
Step by step
In any case, the international borders will only open gradually. Even if international travel becomes possible again, a large part of the population will have to regain confidence. Traveling will slowly pick up again. Domestic travel will this year maybe be the only option. First a weekend close to home, then a week by car … Here are possibilities for the local providers to attract locals.
Time will have to pass before we feel like it again and dare to board a plane with 200 strangers for a short city trip.
Once we are allowed to travel back, travelers will choose for their health and manageability. Think of private rental houses, small hotels, restaurants and activities where you can keep a distance from others. The risk of contamination is smaller and much more controllable. A great opportunity for the providers of Bed & Breakfasts, Gîtes and holiday homes to reach new target groups in the summer and fall of 2020, and retain them afterwards.
A trend that has been around for some time, and will now accelerate. The awareness that sustainable travel is ultimately better for the planet and the locals will have a stronger impact once the travel sector flourishes again. Travelers become more critical towards companies. Anyone who takes a city trip realizes that he is polluting the planet and that a city can suffer from the number of visitors. It has been possible for some time that passengers help to compensate for the pollution of their flight by donating money and planting trees. But travelers will expect more from every link they also use on site (their accommodation, transport, restaurants, …) and be critical of the sustainability of those players. During the tours of Mucho Gusto Tours last year, we often received questions about the impact of tourism on the locals in Barcelona, the polluting cruise boats and the business platform AirBnB bursting at the seams. With Mucho Gusto Tours, we have always opted for small-scale and sustainable and local partners. Our food partners, the bicycle shop El Ciclo, the printing shop where we print our material, etc. are local and sustainable.
In any case, businesses will have to close in many cities due to the lack of customers. Cities such as Lisbon, Barcelona, Venice that are heavily dependent on tourism income will have to reinvent themselves economically. This is a unique opportunity to replace the “not so unique” souvenir shops and uninspiring catering establishments by sustainable trade and new industries in the historic centers.
Budget travel 2.0
Airlines with debts will cut their destinations and the number of flights. Last week, Brussels Airlines announced it would no longer fly to Valencia and Seville until April 2021. Some airlines will also simply cease to exist. To encourage potential travelers to take a flight, price & promo promotions will once again be offered. But afterwards, the debt must be earned back with realistic consumer prices. At the same time, the economy is shrinking and with it the travel budget of many families. A budget trip is therefore more likely to happen close to home with your own car than at a sunny destination 2 hours away from home.
The creativity and professionalism of the virtual trips will boom. It is important to be attractive for the customer from day 1. Collaboration with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality companies for virtual tours and introductions as an appetizer, ask a chef to share typical recipes in advance, or even create unique attractive interactive material for students and schools … Those who can still afford to travel to Nepal will realize that is a truly unique experience and will take more time before the trip in terms of preparation and experience. An opportunity for many providers who currently have no customers. What can you virtually highlight and start sharing in terms of your destination, heritage sites, culinary, art and activities?
Hygiene, health and safety
These three pillars will weigh heavily on customers when they make travel choices. Globalization will not stop. We continue to travel to exotic destinations, but are becoming more critical of the providers we use. Is my hostel hygienic, will I not go for the 4 star hotel instead of the 3 star hotel? What is the risk to my health from this trip? At which destination and in which accommodation can I keep control of my health and travel as hygienically as possible? Which activities during the trip are safe and controllable? For example, Mucho Gusto Tours’ private guides and tours give more confidence than participating in a group activity with unknown other customers. Customers will also expect measures from a cruise ship, event or tourist site that can accommodate 300 people at the same time. Another opportunity for providers to respond to this now and take additional steps. Group travel will not be the way to go for a long time for people over 65. This industry will have to reinvent many parts in their set-up.
A trend that has been going on for some time: yoga retreats in beautiful locations in the mountains, painting holidays, tea workshops, meditation weeks … “Thanks to” the mandatory time we spend at home, the Yoga and Arts & Crafts industry is booming. They spark interest in “experiences” with a larger and new audience. Free online trial lessons, initiations on YouTube, etc. The perfect start to try the “real thing” in a unique location with a small group within 12 months?
Mental health Coaching & Corporate
Once the economy reverses, the workload on many workers will increase in certain sectors and countries. Travel companies can respond to themes such as Life Coaching, mental resilience and the famous Work Life Balance. These topics are more than relevant for employees, companies and corporate travel. A team building that offers your employees tools to remain resilient and mentally strong under extreme circumstances, sounds like a dream for many managers who are under pressure.
Again, the hard situation we have to face now is TOO hard for many, but I really believe in these opportunities and in that unique “reset button” to redraw those places and cities where it was needed.
Do you also have questions, insights and ideas about tourism with and after Corona? Please leave a comment or send me an email to [email protected]
Con Mucho Gusto!