Re-imagining Tourism’s Growth
First held in 1980, the United Nations’ (UN) World Tourism Day is on September 27 each year. The day aims to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.
“Rethink Tourism” is the official theme of this year’s International Day of Tourism 2022. The UK’s leading service-sector industry is in full-scale revival and rebound mode, but are the operators really rethinking the old business model? Are they really Building Back Better? Creating a New Normal? Converting a Crisis into an Opportunity?
Or is it all just going back to Business As Usual?
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “The potential of tourism is enormous, and we have a shared responsibility to make sure it is fully realised. On World Tourism Day 2022, UNWTO calls on everyone, from tourism workers to tourists themselves, as well as small businesses, large corporations and governments to reflect and rethink what we do and how we do it.”
What is tourism?
Defining tourism is a tricky one. But whether you consider a residential, domestic or an international target market, one thing is clear: tourism is not just about leisure holidays. Such a limitation is not only misleading, it excludes so many opportunities.
The understanding around what tourism encompasses must broaden out to consider family reunions, cultural and economic exchanges, meetings of minds for academic research, training and internships. As businesses grow and drive recruitment their location needs to appeal to top talent and with that, promote the lifestyle a place offers. And then let’s all remember our first experience away from home in an exciting, varied, fun and safe environment.
All of this is tourism. For one reason or another, it involves the promotion of a place as a reason to go there.
Tourism is unlike any other industry
It is hard to measure the full impact tourism has on a region, perhaps more measurable on a community; cutting across a number of traditional industry sectors – beyond a core of accommodation, catering, and attractions – to include significant elements of transport, retail, hospitality, leisure, recreation, heritage, arts, culture, entertainment, food & drink, professional services and construction, among others.
It is characterised by predominantly very small businesses, who collectively define the visitor and resident experience through where they visit – and choose to reside – what they see and what they do in any given location. The ‘tourism product’ is not just the services of an individual business, but the collection of visitor services within the area, including the natural environment. For a place to be successful, it needs identifying, defining and framing.
VisitBritain comments “International visitors spent more than £28 billion in the UK in 2019 with that money going into local economies and supporting jobs.” In response to recent UK government considerations around whether or not it’s even necessary to promote tourism, VisitBritain responded, “We need to be out promoting Britain across all our key inbound markets to be able to compete for that visitor spend, and to support the more than 200,000 small businesses that rely on tourism right across the country.”
A sense of place
When previous tourism strategies and campaigns were created, the global economy was in a different place. As we emerge from the pandemic, establishing a sense of place has rarely been so important for future generations, compounded by the effects of the war in Ukraine, increasing energy crisis and rising costs of living. Considerable investment had already been set aside pre-pandemic for some major infrastructure and regeneration work, levelling up, as it’s often referred to.
Increasing a sense of place, with a focus on its unique profile and reputation as a quality dining, shopping and experience destination with high standards of service, will increase footfall and spend. Visitors share experiences online or by word of mouth and residents become natural ambassadors.
If managed and marketed well, a researched tourism strategy, one that takes new market demand into consideration, presents an opportunity for the tourism industry to grow in an unprecedented way. Or to put it another way, if the tourism offer is marketed well and it maximises the regeneration opportunities, the benefits back to the wider economy can be realised.
With the global focus on a carbon neutral goal by 2030, we have just eight years left to achieve this. We can therefore expect sustainability influences to increasingly dominate every element of our lives. Among the first post-COP26 significant signs of this to impact the consumer travel space was Air France and KLM’s introduction of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel levy to all tickets departing France and Amsterdam respectively from January 2022. Etihad was quick to follow with the launch of their Corporate Conscious Choices Programme.
These are bold moves in a space that has yet to be defined, but the defining travel, destination and hospitality solutions will not be those that add a temporary fix. It will be those that rethink the experience from the ground up that will capture market share and long-term loyalty.
We’re fast approaching Cop 27, this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Egypt. A focus on environmental sustainability isn’t new, but the degree to which travellers expect (and prefer) eco-friendly products and services is. It is also a crucial element when any travel or hospitality company is seeking to secure financial investment for future growth.
Sustainability has to be integrated into B2B and B2C communications like it’s second nature, not an after-thought.
Living in a hybrid world
The opportunity for the tourism industry to capitalise on the demand from Visiting Friends & Relatives (VFR) travel segment post-pandemic lies in the need for different accommodation solutions and new experiences. The VFR market needs a place where everyone can convene under one roof, and one that can meet a variety of needs, including the lockdown dog addition to the family. Catering to multi-generational travel was on the rise pre-pandemic, each with their different interests, levels of energy, movement requirements and dietary considerations.The opportunity calls for a physical hybrid space with multiple purposes.
The same applies to businesses with new remote-working arrangements. A Globetrender Business Traveller report earlier this year – The Future of Business Travel – posed the question, “will video-conferencing replace business travel, now that everyone has been forced to embrace it and can acknowledge its benefits? The simple answer is no.” According to their survey, 60% of business travellers believe that the majority of deals and decisions can’t be made virtually.
Embracing the need for wholesome reunions, and at the same time defining ‘hybrid spaces’ as physical locations that serve multiple purposes, destinations and hospitality providers can engage with their local and domestic customers in new and exciting ways. In doing so, they begin to innovate into a new space, appealing to a completely new source market seeking a different place to go.
Rethinking tourism marketing
We hear much about returning to a ‘new normal’, but in truth it’s a ‘new world’ that awaits. Analysing pandemic-induced influences to differentiate temporary trends from long-term course adjustments is an ongoing challenge. At the fabl we have identified three essential needs of travellers in a post-lockdown world – wholesome reunions, experiences and community – that will influence why, where and how people will travel
To read more on this, please access our white paper Beyond the Blip – A new era of travelling, living and working post-pandemic here: https://thefabl.com/beyond-the-blip/
To participate in World Tourism Day, visit https://www.unwto.org/world-tourism-day-2022