Part one of a two-part blog series. See part two here.
Travel and tourism in the U.S. and in many parts of the world is in crisis. Many travel and hospitality-related businesses are struggling to build a sustained recovery, still reeling from a collapse in travel and local business. An estimated 100 million+ jobs have been lost in tourism globally and in the U.S., an estimated 38% of all jobs lost in the nation are tourism-related. U.S. travel has named it the "Great Travel Depression".
Tourism’s successful restart and recovery is critical to wider economic and social recovery of local communities, local economies and job markets. Both in the U.S. and globally, there is no recovery without tourism at its center.
Here are eight essential steps to a successful restart and recovery in tourism. Our recovery strategy needs to be urgent, well-resourced, and integrated, tackling each of these areas.
1. Managing the Health Crisis.
The Great Travel Depression is fundamentally a health crisis. The recovery of tourism starts and ends with getting on top of the pandemic. This will take aggressive city, state/province and national action across the three fundamentals of managing the pandemic: i. limiting transmission through social distancing and other social behaviors, ii. exhaustive testing to find new cases and iii. rigorous tracking and tracing to discover new or at risk cases and isolate. In each of these areas, the U.S. and other countries such as Brazil are simply failing. Badly. In stark comparison, the European Union has made substantive progress illustrated below. This is the result of coordinated, committed nationwide efforts which are creating opportunities for tourism recovery not currently available in the U.S.
Action: We need a far more coordinated and well-resourced government response to the health crisis from all levels. The sustained recovery of tourism, the wider economy and jobs will be built on first solving the health crisis.
2. Clear, Industry Standards
Even without effective government action in many countries, and much of the U.S., the tourism industry is trying to keep travelers and locals safe and build confidence in travel. A huge range of health and safety protocols and processes have emerged including international standards such as the World Travel and Tourism Council's #SafeTravels, nationally adopted protocols such as Singapore’s SGClean and individual business programs such as Sandals Resort's "Book with Confidence" highlighted by Sandals Resorts' Deputy Chairman, Adam Stewart, in our recent webinar on "Reimagining Major Travel Experiences."
Action: Businesses need strict health and visitor safety protocols in place to build and support confidence. These programs need to be based on science, consistent and comprehensive. Our recent research with Longwoods International highlighted the wide range of factors that US travelers look for when considering a destination, activity, attraction or tour.
3. Trusted, Comparable and Consistent Visitor Information
Visitor confidence is critical to any recovery in travel, and confidence is built off trusted, comparable and consistent information that informs travelers and provides context and meaning. With the pandemic impacting every point around the globe and every county and city across the U.S. differently, it is confusing and overwhelming for travelers to decipher complex data on infection rates, case studies and risks. Looking at the CDC information for travel within the U.S., the EU updates on European travel or Australian information, you are met with a bewildering range of websites, bureaucratic language and complex data points that can be confusing. The situation is calling out for a clear travel advisory model that is consistent and comparable across destinations. There are private sector solutions such as GeoSure, a travel safety app that has introduced COVID-19 specific reporting, gathering leading health and government sources and collating it into a simple score out of 100 for every significant city and region on the planet. This allows locals and travelers to quickly understand relative risks including comparing destinations to their local community.
Action: Travel and tourism is urgently in need of trusted, consistent, and comparable information for travelers that is simple and easy to understand. This will add clarity and build confidence to travel as appropriate to your own health circumstances and tolerance for risk. We need respected organizations such as the CDC, EU, government entities or national industry organizations to take action.
4. Recovery Starts with Locals
It is clear that the recovery in retail, restaurants and attractions needs to be driven primarily in the short-term by locals. Unless locals feel confident getting out in their own community, it is problematic to expect visitors to return. Plus, we need locals to feel comfortable opening up their community to visitors to ensure it is welcoming and there is no public or political push back. Our research with Longwoods International indicates that in the U.S., there is a lot of work still to do.
As of June 17, when asked if they support reopening their community to visitors, only 41% of American travelers agreed or strongly agreed which is actually down from 46% in early June. This likely reflects the rising COVID-19 cases in many parts of the nation which highlights how closely the recovery is connected across the US. Similarly smaller portions of U.S. travelers indicated they feel safe venturing out in their own community or traveling themselves.
Action: The recovery in the wider tourism industry will be built on local confidence, community by community. We need city and county leaders aggressively managing the health crisis (see #1) and then seeking to encourage locals where appropriate to venture out and support local businesses.
Read Part of 2 of this blog series here for the remainder of our 8 Essential Steps in Tourism’s Recovery:
5. Rebuilding Traveler Confidence
6. Activating the VFR & Drive Markets
7. Responsible, Respectful Visitors
8. Measurement & Feedback Framework
- U.S. Travel – The Great Travel Depression Fact Sheet.
- Longwoods International;s COVID-19 Travel Sentiment – sponsored by Miles.
- Reimaging Major Travel Experiences Webinar.