Enrique Dans Senior Contributor Forbes Magazine
As we attempt to deal with the second wave of a pandemic that likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s increasingly clear that some industries are going to be changed dramatically, and one of them is going to be tourism.
The lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19 have already hit the tourism sector hard, but what is coming, even if and when the pandemic is brought under control, will be equally challenging. No one knows exactly how tourism will be changed, but even leaving aside the impact of the pandemic, there is the issue of the urgent need for the decarbonization of transportation. Places like Germany are reducing rail fares in a bid to encourage people to use alternatives to polluting options such as cars or airplanes, while airlines such as Easyjet are planning to reduce the size of their fleets drastically. Tourism can survive the pandemic, but only if it changes radically.
We have an historic opportunity to reverse the evolution of an industry that everyone, from the most savvy analyst to the humblest traveler, knew was completely unsustainable. Companies are envisioning long-term changes that include a complete rethink of the harmful cruise and air transport industries: how is it possible that airlines are operating empty planes or offering sight-seeing trips to nowhere?
Other players such as Airbnb, which saw its 12-year history crumble in just a few months, are rethinking their activities as they consider going public at a time when apartment owners in city centers are once again taking refuge in long-term rental contracts, while cities like Amsterdam have simply banned holiday lets in central areas.
Will tourism return? Undoubtedly, but it will be a very different animal. More responsible, more respectful, leaner, and focused on sustainability. Companies that think the virus is a short-term problem and it will soon be business as usual will not make it out of the current crisis alive.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.