The resurgence of global tourism will focus on local markets

 National tourism is the key to recovery, and that starts with the way it’s communicated

By Lina Rincón, Colombia

After months of closed borders and obligatory quarantine, tourism represents the economic sector hit hardest by the health crisis triggered by the pandemic.

According to the Word and Travel Tourism Council (WTTO) while around 150 million jobs have been lost in the sector, local tourism will lead the recovery followed by short break international travel.

Data from the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) confirms the abrupt drop in international flights in the first half of the year; 440 million international arrivals cancelled and a drop in revenue for the tourism sector of US$460,000 million.

Today, a small number of tourism ‘corridors’ have opened in select countries, giving rise to some hope of a recovery in sectors such as airlines, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, museums, and beaches amongst others. Travelers, however, are still wary of hygiene standards.

Over the last few weeks, some local flights as well as (fewer) international flights have resumed with COVID-19 protocols, tests and (different forms of) travel certification. In the final instance, everything depends on the responsibility of each traveller to respect hygiene norms, without which any recovery for the sector will be impossible.

For the first time in recent history, the travel sector is learning how to re-start from zero, after months of relative inactivity and unprecedented uncertainty in the global economy.

Clearly, travel is far from a consumer priority, and we are a long way from being able to guarantee unlimited travel (as before).  According to SiteMinder’s Changing Traveller Report which analysed the behaviour, plans and perspectives of over 5,000 travellers in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, the UK and the US in July this year, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the financial situation of three out of four travellers. However, 85% also expected their next national trip to be before the end of next year.

Travelling has now become a privilege; the search for extraordinary experiences with more meaning and more distinction. Life has been reduced to absolutes, but these include the desire to move, to explore and to investigate, even under geographical, logistical or financial constraints.  It is an essential part of our deepest memories.

National tourism represents a clear opportunity. According to the WTO as recently as 2018, 9 billion ‘tourists’ from across the globe completed trips in their respective countries; that’s six times more than the number of international arrivals (1,400 billion, globally) during the same period!

This reality represents a huge opportunity for global growth, particularly for the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean where the sector’s decline could impact GDP growth by 8.1% while resulting employment could fall 9% in the Caribbean 2% in Latin America according to data from CEPAL.

It is essential that all efforts and policies should now be focused on developing the sector in terms of diversity and environmental and social sustainability.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, this situation should represent a ‘tipping point’ to combine resources to create sustainable and alternative tourism, based on its ample supply of natural resources and wildlife, which will be fundamental to the region’s recovery.

Above all, the industry must recognise that this global emergency is providing a clear lesson and opportunity for collaboration: public and private sector organisations combining to create policies and actions for a tourist sector that is both responsible and environmental; not least, in terms of new behaviours expected of tomorrow’s travellers!

The moment has come for the region to recognise (and celebrate) its cultures and customs; all too often ignored or under-valued. Now is the moment to re-think such strategies on a national level.

If we look beyond the pandemic itself, now is a prime opportunity for such broader considerations and growth for individual countries and for the region as a whole. A principle driver for local tourism are communication campaigns reminding citizens of the riches of their own country and encouraging them to rediscover what many may have neglected. In these times, all resources should be focused re-starting the sector safely and securely

According to marketing science experts, data and science can be applied to stimulate the urge to travel and, even, visit particular locations through association with particular memories and emotions already stored in people’s minds.

Marketing and public relations can support this process; to position and promote particular destinations, through the propagation of stimulating content around domestic tourism that informs and motives tourists to look again at their own countries.

Now is the moment for an authentic type of ‘nationalism’; to figuratively wave the flag for Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Columbia, Panamá, Costa Rica, México and all the countries of the region!

It’s time to make up for the months lost.  Here is an occasion for the entire region to unite and, in many cases – just like the mythical phoenix – rise from the ashes, in others, to re-set the entire business model.

Now, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain!