If we combine each country’s loss in revenue, the financial impact of Covid-19 on world tourism has resulted in a total revenue loss of $195 billion worldwide so far.
If you calculate separately, France is the world’s most visited country with over 89 million tourists each year, but the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in a total revenue loss of £8.7m.
As some of the countries emerges from lockdown much of the world is sinking deeper into this exponential and existential crisis.
Travel and tourism have been one of the most disrupted industries by COVID-19. Travel and tourism are also one of the most disruptive negative forces impacting our natural environment and the health and wellbeing of our planet.
This blog aims to summarise the key points which emerged amongst our thoughts, as well as the direction of travel for the industry, in particular from a sustainable perspective.
My personal experience, having spent a decade working in the information technology industry, and having been fortunate enough to travel a lot approximately 27 countries over the past many years, is that travel and tourism will continue to contribute massively to diversity, cultural understanding, education, a global outlook and to contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful world for all.
However, the travel industry cannot and must not continue to have scant regard for the damage it does to the natural environment.
There is a huge opportunity post-COVID to reset, to create a new paradigm which is genuinely sustainable, where travel and tourism are framed in a more planet-friendly way and where people think before they moving into a plane.
With the industry on its knees, governments across the globe should consider following the lead of the French Government and link airline bailouts to their environmental policy and strategies.
In the context of a sustainable reset, we may travel less but we will most certainly enjoy it more and do less harm.
We have experienced in past days that we are now much closer to nature. Now further travel can open our eyes to the value of nature, different cultures and the interconnectedness of all of us.
The panellists made the point that in a post-COVID world, it is vital that we shift our mindsets from bucket-list ticking to a more thoughtful, deeper approach to travel.
We need to stay for longer in the places we visit; engage with local communities, and give back to them. When travelling with children, we should teach them about where they’re going prior to travelling and what to take care of whilst they’re there and help preserve the environment in doing so.
We should be more careful but more enthusiastic now when we are attending a religious ceremony in India, or a how-to prepare pastry’s lesson in Paris, or following any passion, we could experiencing life as a local, understanding it, and helping communities thrive who will, in turn, care more deeply for the environment around them.
We have spotted many innovators and startups who aim to help communities affected by tourism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many startups has released evocative adverts aiming to pull tourists back once they are able to travel, in order to help the local community, and some startup already started co-operations that work with neighbourhoods and renters to create an ethical alternative to Airbnb, Oyo etc. type of companies.
2. Own the responsibilities
When we say “It is a local government Job”, then simultaneously we are trying to shun our duties and responsibilities and only remember our rights.
It’s easy to place the responsibility we have towards the environment and local communities when travelling on governments and big businesses. But in accepting that each individual traveller has a role to play, we can help to mitigate the negative aspects of the industry.
While tourism brings in massive revenues to local communities and helps to fund the wages of rangers and other wildlife preservationists who protect local species and the environment, communities can be overwhelmed and the environmental cost of travel and tourism is massive.
We should research the most environmentally-friendly travel companies, and which ones give back to and engage with local communities.
Without a doubt, everyone agreed that younger generations are certainly becoming more aware of the need to travel sustainably and drive the demand for sustainable change.
Having an interesting, environmental edge, such as eco-friendly portable hotel concept is a major requisite for many young people and it’s important for the big players in travel and tourism to lean into this.
They need to be transparent about what they are doing to be more sustainable; like afford to send their employees on trains instead of planes, saving on carbon emissions?
Moreover, after months of remote working, is it necessary to travel around the world for work at all anymore?
We have certainly noticed a plethora of innovators seeking to make the remote working experience. some creative companies are also coming forward to accept this culture. In being selective about the environmental and ethical practices of the travel companies we generally use, we should put pressure on companies and businesses to live up to the same standards and open up conversations between governments and local communities.
4. Pack your bags for short travels
Kurt shared data that shows this is most likely to be short-haul and localised, with long-haul, international travel unlikely to return to normal until around 2023.
It is likely that, as the travel industry begins to reopen, there will be an immediate upsurge in cheap, accessible holidays in popular destinations, as tourist boards and travel companies try to rebuild themselves after the pandemic by offering discounts and cheap travel.
After being inside for months, travellers will likely be eager to travel at the expense of the environment and other considerations.
As we begin to rebuild the travel industry, we must make sure that sustainability forms part of the recovery plan; it is incumbent upon everyone to make the change permanent, to refuse to return to normal, to explore your local area rather than travelling a far, and to check the policies of your travel companies. Mitigation isn’t the solution.
5. Time to Give Back This means travelling lightly in terms of the environment, and deeply into the communities we should enter. All travellers either governments, or businesses or individuals, all are stewards for the planet, and we must give back in any way we can.
The new role for the travel and tourism industry would be, they should become unites, educators, great employers, and the drivers of empathy and change. And yes, they can do, if they are committed to doing so.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has made our world smaller than they have been for a long time, it is vital that we remember how privileged we are when it becomes possible to travel again.
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