Is Tourism Becoming Local Too?
When the 9 trillion dollar tourism industry was hit by a global pandemic in early 2020, things appeared grim for an industry that relies heavily on international tourist arrivals. Many places around the world, like the Caribbean Islands, Bangkok, Fiji, European tourist destinations, cities that rely on amusement parks, and urban attractions, depend on global travel spend to keep their economies running.
A year and a half later, the concept of local tourism has given some hope for reviving this industry. Both tourists and governments see the benefits of travel spending staying within their country while also helping to create jobs for the local tourism workforce.
Making a Case for Domestic Tourism
Pre-Covid, tourism accounted for 10 percent of the global GDP and 320 million jobs. (Source) The numbers and job losses have been staggering and while we can be sure that domestic tourism alone is not the answer, it offers a segway back to normalcy for countries that have all the infrastructure already in place to support tourism.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has a tourism recovery tracker that reports an 80% year-to-date drop in international tourist arrivals in 2021. Here are some compelling reasons for the tourism industry to think local:
Tourism as an industry inherently offers contact-intensive services. Keeping it local is low risk, and allows the country to contain exposure and spread, till a high rate of vaccinations has been achieved.
With the kind of global fear caused by Covid-19, most tourists are looking for familiarity and predictability in every aspect of life including their leisure and business travels, both of which are generally considered non-essential.
Tapping into your country’s smaller towns and lesser-known tourist destinations helps with crowd control, and brings jobs to areas that might still be struggling.
Concepts in Local Tourism
Destinations have adopted innovative local ways to stay agile, bring in revenue, and retain employment opportunities while catering to their tourists’ needs at the same time. Let’s look at a few of them more closely.
In its original format, a staycation denotes people creating a vacation vibe in their own home environment; it’s cost-effective and time-saving. With the spread of the virus, tourist destinations tapped into their local customers who were tired of staying in their homes and were looking for a trusted set of options for local staycations. This pairs the convenience of being in one’s own city with the fun of being served by someone else, which is one of the main draws of a vacation.
Remote Working Options
With many companies moving to and staying remote, employees continue to seek ways to get away, and use tourism destinations for living and working away from home. This takes the tedium out of operating in one’s 24-hour dwelling all the time and simultaneously boosts the tourism economy.
Corporate Team Building
One of the hardest hits to the tourism industry is the drying out of business travel. Companies have become conservative about letting employees travel for work, a reality that will stay due to the emergence of new and easy ways for teams to connect remotely. Organizations have come to value the time and resources that have been freed by the lack of an employee’s work-related travel. These budgets are now being reallocated to team-building opportunities for their remote or hybrid workforce. Domestic tourism destinations have snapped up this chance to create a new revenue stream by building offerings around team-building to bring back corporate spending.
Outdoors is the New Indoors
Due to the fact that the virus doesn’t spread as easily in outdoor locations as it does indoors, those serving tourists have needed to find innovative ways to build up the necessary infrastructure to expand their services outdoors. This new shift in tourism, and just about any other customer-facing business, is an environmentally sensible lifestyle trend that is appreciated by the clientele and is sure to grow.
Building the Path, Not Just the Destination
With the advent of more local tourism, all businesses in various destinations have come together to amp up the entire tourist experience. Domestic businesses are collaboratively serving the local tourists’ needs in the new reality with outdoor malls and road stops that serve the car traveler, picnic meals in local parks, and open-air shows.
Future of the Local Tourism Industry
As things come back to a new way of operating, keeping in mind that while the pandemic will someday be behind us, the virus will remain and has forever changed the way we look at travel and tourism.
The following aspects will be relevant to the future growth of the tourism industry:
Vaccination rates and mandates placed by the government of a country will determine if the international tourist can trust visiting a destination.
Taxation on tourism has always been heavy. Giving some relief to struggling businesses and their customers who are hesitant to return, will be relevant.
Using a compassionate lens when it comes to change and cancellation fees in all areas of travel and tourism will make a difference in how quickly tourists return to a destination.
The ability of places that are heavily reliant on tourism to control their crowds and give tourists a sense of safety is now of crucial importance.
The most affected in this industry has been its workforce, many of whom had to look for other ways to survive after being let go. Today, the industry is struggling to reopen due to a lack of well-trained employees. Creating workforce mobility and making sure that employees feel valued is the only way to bring back skilled labor.
Tourism numbers are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels till 2023, and it might be prudent to keep a local and regional outlook to tourism for the moment before expecting international tourist arrivals to return to normal.