It is difficult times for the tourism and hospitality industry. In just a few months, the world as we know it has changed – and with that, a massive evolving challenge has emerged. Tourism is based on human interaction, which is the one thing that cannot take place at the moment. How are the travel restrictions impacting the industry post Corona? And how will people travel in the years to come? In this post, I am seeking to answer these questions based on my personal views.
It’s not easy to understand the circumstances we are suddenly facing. Just a few years ago, I was traveling the world as a travel writer, and I know a lot of people who did the same. In fact, it is almost impossible for me to think of anyone in my network who did not travel extensively for work and pleasure. Often they would do both. A weekend trip to Barcelona and a long summer holiday in Greece would be topped off by an Autumn getaway to Bali or another exotic destination. You know, just to cure the withdrawals. And no one could talk us out of our annual skiing trip to Aspen or St. Moritz or Tirol – until someone accidentally came back with something called ‘Corona virus’ from last-mentioned destination. At least, that’s how it all began here in Denmark where I’m from. And little by little everything began to shut down and every single tourist all over the planet would stay home. #StayHome became a thing – it still is, and it will most likely be for a long time to come. We’re making history right now, as we are sitting here in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemi. For the first time in human history, we’re all united. No matter where in the world you’re from, you’re currently affected by it to some extent, and if that’s not food for thought, I don’t know what is.
As a writer working specifically in hospitality, I am of course affected like many others in this industry. Not a day goes by at the moment without hotels and restaurants shutting down and people getting fired. It’s so sad to witness, and I understand the growing frustration around it. How will it all end? Will we be OK? I’m not in a position to answer these things, but I would like to give my two cents about where we’re actually heading. After all, writing about hospitality and travel trends is what I do for a living.
The rise and fall of mass tourism
Tourism was on a role before all this happened. In 2018 there were a record of 1,4 billion international tourists arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organization. Needless to say, tourism has played a very important role in the global economy for years. Thanks to growing budget airlines such as EasyJet and RyanAir, traveling was more accessible than ever. And now we’re here. No one travels anymore, and I’m guessing no one will for at least a good handful of months to come. But we will of course travel again at some point; it’s just not going to be the same as before. And perhaps that’s really a good thing since mother nature hasn’t been coping very well with mass tourism.
I recently read an article on Skift discussing the future of tourism, which actually inspired to write this post. In the article, it was mentioned that mega resorts and cruise ships – basically anywhere with a massive amount of tourists gathered in one place – will most likely see a major drop in bookings going forward. Perhaps it will phase out completely over the course of the next decade or so. And as we’re moving away from mass tourism, we’ll see an increase in demand for natural experiences and places with less human interaction. We’re born with nomad blood – that’s how humans has survived for millions of years – so I don’t think we’ll stop traveling. But I do think we’ll see a big slow down in the coming years. International travelers might travel a little less than before and slowly make way for a new travel trend: domestic travel.
Staycation: Stay home – also when traveling
The concept of eco travel has been growing rapidly over the last few years. Ignited by a growing sense of responsibility and awareness around our climate, it’s not new to ‘go local’. In fact, it has been labelled a travel trend for quite a while. Of course it takes a lot more than just a few thousand “well-informed” tourists to change the way we travel worldwide, but I think Covid-19 is an incredible advocate for exploring our home countries. Going forward, we feel safer staying close to home, and I believe there’s already a growing appreciation for our native lands happening at the moment. Have you ever wondered how much your own country has to offer in terms of travel experiences? Well, soon you’ll have the chance to find out.
The local travel aspect is a beautiful thing. It brings us together as nations and shows us different perspectives. I personally love traveling to foreign countries and experiencing other cultures than my own, but I must admit that I’m also looking forward to exploring my own country in the years to come. As an example, Denmark consists of 406 islands, and so far, I’ve only been to a handful of them. Time to change that, I guess.
This brings me to the next topic – glamping.
Appreciation of nature
It’s about time, isn’t it? It makes me cringe every time I think about the state we left our planet in pre Corona times. I feel like we’ve been given a second chance, us humans. Hopefully, also in the future, we’ll learn to appreciate our natural environments to a much greater extend than we did before. Will Covid-19 be abe to cure over-fishing of the oceans? Will it stop air pollution? No one knows for sure, but I’m certain that many people will at least begin to consider the impact of their actions as we’re going forward. We can only hope that we’ll find alternatives to over-fishing, over-flying and over-polluting the Earth – even a small step is an improvement. The ‘common mind’ we have developed during this crisis, hopefully sticks around long enough for real solutions to be implemented.
Back to glamping. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it’s basically an upgraded form of camping – ideal if you love to be in nature, but don’t want to miss out on comfort! The combination of luxury and nature sounds appealing to many, including myself. Moreover, it taps into our individuality and sense of well-being. Eco lodges and remote hotels are other forms of accommodation that we’ll most likely see more of in the coming years. It’s time to connect with ourselves and nature on a different level than what we’ve been used to. Not only to make greater sense of it all, but also because we’ve experienced how it feels not to be able to travel, to move, to connect with our environment. In short: we’re going back to nature.
The last thing I’d like to highlight as a potential coming travel trend, is the rise of the authentic hotel experience. An increasing number of hotels have already been adjusting to fit the demands of younger travellers; they want to be able to relate to their product! Every hotel out there has a personality of its own, even if it’s part of a chain. It’s about leveraging that and then communicating it out to the guests.
As we’re moving away from the thought of mass-tourism and huge resorts, I believe personality and authenticity will gain a lot more attention.
So how can hotels become more authentic? By incorporating history and heritage into the daily operations, for example. By focusing on ‘the smaller things’, everyday life at the hotel and by highlighting the use of local and eco-certified products. The people working in a hotel are not just service workers – they make the hotel experience. Future travellers want to see more of this, simply because they emphasize stronger relations and wish to feel a sense of connection and community – even if the concept of community should change as we move forward. But that’s a different talk.
I’m sure a lot more will show up as we’re navigating through this pandemic and reaching a new point for international travel and tourism. But above all, I hope that ethics and a sense of responsibility will slowly gain a stronger place in the industry.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. And remember, we’re in this together.
Hygiene is the new black
It probably should’ve played a bigger part before, but we sort of took it for granted. Lack of hygiene is partly the reason we’re facing this pandemic, so I’m certain good hygiene will be emphasized wherever you go in the next years. Hand sanitizer will surely be provided for free in airports, shops and other public spaces, which we’re already seeing now. People will be much more cautious shaking hands, and so other forms of greetings might appear. I’m not a fan of the term ‘social distancing’, mainly because we as humans rely on human contact and the opposite might lead to anxiety and depression, but I’m certain the current situation will change our habits and thinking forever. Hopefully, there will be more focus on cleanliness in public spaces and means of transportations as well. And masks… they might stick around for a while, whether we like them to or not.
Women in Hospitality & Travel Tech
“Social Media & Communications during Covid-19 and beyond”
On April 16th 2020, I had the pleasure of taking part in an exciting panel discussion hosted by Women in Hospitality & Travel Tech – a platform advocating more diversity in the hospitality sector. I was on the panel with 5 other passionate hospitality professionals, and even though we all live in different parts of the world, we joined forces this afternoon to support the future of hospitality. You can watch the discussion by clicking the image below.