Industry Update
Opinion Article 5 January 2021

Tourism Tidbits: Looking Back at The Year That Wasn’t!

By Peter Tarlow, President of Tourism and More

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Wishing everyone health and happiness in 2021May 2021 Be A Better Year!

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Most people in the tourism industry are more than willing to say adieu to the year 2020. The twenty-first century's third decade began with extremely high hopes. A mere year ago, no one could have conceived of the fact that by March of 2020 the tourism industry would have been in shambles. In February of 2020 COIVD-19 struck, and the tourism industry went into a tailspin going from unprecedent highs to its greatest lows. From February until the end of the year, every aspect of travel and tourism has suffered. Many hotels and restaurants are now bankrupt, others are still alive, albeit on economic life-support. The airline industry, which serves much more than the leisure traveler, faces continuous layoffs and potential bankruptcies. There is greater demand for national and international regulations due to the industry's loss of credibility. Airline industry employees, and those who work in its satellite industries such as airport terminals, now live with perpetual uncertainty. The same can be said for major attractions and museums. Some museums have found themselves in such dire straits that they have had to auction off part of their priceless collections. At the start of 2021 the travel and tourism industry finds itself in a state of severe economic contraction.

From major tourism centers to small towns, the travel and tourism industry is only now beginning to awaken to the many new challenges that it will have to overcome if it is to survive. With the current end, or hiatuses of the global economy, tourism leaders are having to rethink their assumptions and world views. In January of 2020 tourism leaders believed that during this new decade no industry, nation, or economy would be an island unto itself. International tourism was on the rise and many locales, such as Barcelona, Spain, Venice, Italy, or the United States national park system faced what only a year ago was called "over-tourism". In the months of February and March (2020), the world of tourism changed, and the fear of over-tourism became the fight for tourism survival. How the travel & tourism industry adapts to these new economic and environment shifts will impact the world's economy for decades to come.

In this new and unstable world no one can be sure that what is predicted is what will come to be. Experts' analyses have continuously been wrong. Should the new vaccines prove to be effective and reliable, then 2020 might be nothing more than an anomaly in the history of the growth of tourism. No one, however, can be certain that these new vaccines will prove to be as successful as hoped or that if we defeat COVID-19 then a new pandemic might arise on the horizon.

To help you determine your own strategy Tourism & More presents the following ideas and possible future trends always emphasizing that we live in a highly fluid situation and what might appear logical today might be invalid tomorrow.

  • Do not run from a problem, recognize it and start to seek solutions. After 2020 there are very few tourism communities or businesses that are not suffering. The year 2021 will require creative changes and solutions. Marketing without real change is nothing more than placing a bandage on an open wound. Tourism professionals will have to face reality, begin to prioritize problems, and seek solutions one at a time. Be dignified and honest with both employees and customers. The worst thing to do is to lose credibility.
  • Think of your tourism industry as an integrated whole rather than as a series of independent components. Additional travel costs mean that visitors will be seeking ways to economize. Visitors do not see each part of their tourism experience (hotel, transportation, food, attractions) as separate experiences but rather as a unified experience. The tourism industry needs to do the same. Each of tourism's components needs to work with the other sectors of the industry to find ways to increase the quality of the tourism experience despite higher prices. If visitors do not see the total experience as worthwhile, then all of the tourism industry's components will suffer.
  • Remember that your local community has also suffered due to a downturn in tourism revenues. Tourism does not only directly impact those who work in the industry, but the secondary and tertiary effects are felt throughout the community. In major cities it is estimated that a dollar (peso, euro) spent on a tourism product has a multiplier effect of at least 7. Although the effect is less in smaller communities, any community with a tourism industry is feeling the slowdown's impact both economically and socially. By taking the lead, tourism professionals can demonstrate that they are part of the community and that they care about the total community's wellbeing.
  • Think local! Consider expanding your market by finding more visitors closer to home. This solution will help not only the local hotel industry, but also permit retailers to weather the storm by adding to the community's economy as tourism revenues from outside of the local region begin to fall. Buying and featuring local products adds a unique quality to the travel experience. In areas where there are geographic limitations, such as many island destinations, develop creative pricing, along with creative airport hospitality.
  • Be appreciative! All too often tourism businesses act as if they are doing the customers a favor. This is the time to develop creative ways to show appreciation. For example, locales may want to develop "welcome passports" to be used at restaurants and hotels where visitors are provided with a free "extra" as a way of showing appreciation. Showing appreciation is especially important in an era where long-haul travel may decline. Tourism businesses will become dependent on local, short-haul and regional travel if they are to survive during the initial recover phases. Follow-up letters may also be sent in which the local tourism industry thanks people for visiting. The letters can even be e-letters and used as a way to encourage visitors to return for another visit.
  • Do not over-survey! Many frequent travelers are over-surveyed and see right through surveys that are designed to avoid negative feedback. Surveys have become so common in tourism that they have become not only meaningless but a new annoyance. The best surveys are oral survey where the tourism business not only listens but acts.
  • Get to know your product again! Tourism professionals need to rethink what they are selling! Ask yourself: Are we selling experiences, leisure, rest, or history? Are we selling basic transportation or the travel experience? How does our business fit into the total travel experience in this post-COVID-19 world? Do our past marketing efforts reflect current realities?
  • In the post-COVID-19 world of tourism freebees will be more important than ever. Even when people are feeling good about their economic situation travelers still love to receive something for nothing, even if they have to pay for it! In these challenging times, a welcome drink or cookie, a small gift or souvenir can turn a simple experience into a memorable one. Combine basic costs into the cost of an admission ticket or a free night's stay. If hospitality is based on the idea of being taken care of and pampered than charging for extras may be a poor strategy. Avoid extra sur-charges. In the new world of travel, personal service is essential.
  • The last impression is often the lasting impression, so consider being creative when people leave a destination. For example, hotels can give a restaurant coupon to departing guests, passport controls can hand out a come-back soon brochure or gas stations can offer a free cup of coffee-for-the-road. The cost of the item is a lot less important than the memory and positive word of mouth advertising that it will create.

Peter Tarlow

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    Peter Tarlow
    President Tourism and More
    Phone: +1 979 764 8402
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