Tourism is Dead, Long Live Tourism
The call featured insights from each of the founding partners on the current state of travel, and the rising role sustainability can play in ensuring that things hopefully don’t return to ‘normal’ post COVID.
Their hope, and ours at Tashi, is that instead, tourism takes a more mature and sustainable approach going forward so that it can harness its potential as one of the best catalysts for positive social change across the world.
Over the course of the 2-hour call, we also heard from sustainable travel leaders in New Zealand, Australia, India and elsewhere.
The call featured a significant amount of self-congratulatory ‘aren’t we just great’ back-patting from the founding partners, but alongside that unnecessary spin, they did share some interesting points and insights that I wanted to share you, our partners.
There were 3 key insights.
1. Believe the hype - hygiene matters
(a) Know your protocols
Almost all of the major Online Travel Agents have rolled out their own Travel Safe tools and hygiene protocols. Examples include TripAdvisor and Airbnbs. There's a lot of overlap and potential for confusion, but you should make an effort to understand them.
(b) Prove your protocols
Proving that you are adhering to these protocols makes a difference. TripAdvisor is assigning stamps to compliant suppliers and stated that the click-through rate listing with a stamp of approval hygiene wise is 25% higher than those without.
(c) Communicate your protocols
In addition to price, consumers are paying more attention than ever to a business' practises, including sustainability and hygiene. Consumers won't necessarily want to read all the small details, but they will want to be assured that you've considered it and that you're across it.
2. Back Local, Stay Local
(a) Stay and Play packages
It won't surprise you to hear that domestic travel is the name of the game for almost all markets now and into the next 6-12 months. However, you have to tailor your offerings to this new market as traditional guiding experiences won't cut it with a domestic market that already knows their backyard.
As Ryan from Haka Tourism Group from NZ tour put it, you should consider more 'stay and play' style packages where you combine accommodation with e-guides and gamify the experiences. Good examples of this are our fellow Melbournians' AmazingCo and the guys and gals at Secret City Trails.
(b) What was a weakness could now become a strength.
Travellers are seeking nature, seaside and remote experiences in response to being lockdown in crowded areas. This sentiment is part of an existing long-term trend of travellers wanting to visit remote spots so that they can create their own bucket list, rather than tick things off someone else's.
This has the potential to open up more 'alternative' destinations that have been traditionally ignored. Remoteness, which may have been previously seen as a weakness by many, now becomes a strength. Think, one of Shacky.com’s beautiful tiny houses in the stunning Victorian countryside.
(c) Play the Local Card
Consumers have become more accurately aware of the contribution that tourism makes to the local area and how vital it is to support communities.
On Tripadvisor, the average rating of small businesses has increased since COVID due to a warming sentiment towards them and the rising awareness of the vital role that they play.
Travellers want to make good decisions and support their local accommodation and tour providers. But most travellers still don't know what that means to be a good traveller.
Help them out by illustrating on all of your channels how helping you help the community - if that is the case. If that is not the case - see below!
3. Tech adoption has accelerated - a lot!
As has been widely reported, COVID has hyper-charged the adoption of e-commerce and digital business practises. For every online only subscription toilet paper company that sold out (Yes! -> here) there is a new keyless card entry system or no-touch check-in platform for accommodation providers.
The adoption level that may have otherwise taken three years has happened in 3 months. You can be assured that this preference for an advanced digital experience has already seeped into the average traveller's expectations. If you haven't already, you must consider if you're leveraging technology to turn lookers into bookers wherever you sell your products.
Yes, we are biased (Tashi is a travel technology company 😃), but that doesn't mean we're wrong.
Are you ready?
Tourism is dead, long live Tourism!
There were some strong words from the always inspirational Jaideep Bansal from Global Himalayan Expeditions.
"Tourism has created a lot of billionaires and millionaires over the years. They have become so by standing on the shoulders of giants, which are the local communities around the world. Now, with COVID is the time for these billionaires to recognise whose shoulders they are standing and do more to support them now and in the future."
I couldn't agree more - here's looking at you founding members of Travalyst and beyond. 👀
Despite the headlines, no, tourism is not dead. Just, hopefully, the way we've done it to date is. Travel always has and always will be basic human need and desire. The mad rush to holiday as soon as lockdown finished everywhere shows that.
However, it is pretty sick right now, and it's going to be carrying scars for a long time (insert smallpox analogy here). Hopefully, however, it doesn't return to where it was before, because it really wasn’t great.
The exponential growth of the global traveller numbers over the last 30 years has not been met by a corresponding increase in the number of suitable tourism destinations and attractions. This has led to crushing over-tourism in many regions.
For too long, communities have paid the social, cultural and environmental cost of tourism without obtaining the corresponding financial benefit. It’s been exploitative and simply put, crazy!
As Darrell Wade from Intrepid put it, 'We're committed to building back bigger and better than we were before."
COVID has devastated economies, businesses and people. But, it has provided a genuine opportunity to hit reset and re-examine how we, not just as an industry, but as a community, can do better.
How we can deliver a sustainable future and ensure that tourism is a key component of that. There are three things to keep in mind:
- The importance of partnership, build on mutual respect and fairness;
- Recognise that those that pay the cultural and environmental price of tourism should receive the financial benefits; and
- Understanding that sustainable tourism encompasses not just nature and environment, but also the culture and the community that occupy it.
So there you have it. My takeaways from an interesting call.
Believe the hype, hygiene matters, the back local, stay local trend is here to stay and meet Tashi if you haven’t already to ensure that you’re staying ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.
Travalyst and it’s founding partners are talking a big game and while I’m definitely an ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ type of person, bringing this calibre of people together around a common goal is definitely a step in the right direction. Tourism is dead, long live Tourism!
(ps. If you don’t get the ‘Tourism is dead, long live Tourism!’ reference read here)