Tourism of the Future: Closer, Greener, DigitalBy Daniel González | Wed, 04/22/2020 - 16:51
Tourism represents 8.7 percent of Mexico’s GDP, which places it, along with oil and remittances from the US, as one of the country’s most strategic industries. However, the rapid expansion of COVID-19 has slowed down a sector that continued to expand at the beginning of 2020. In 2019, the Ministry of Tourism predicted an increase of between 3 and 4 percent in international travelers who would visit Mexico this year, a figure that, far from being reached, will be dramatically reduced. According to data from the World Tourism Organization, the reduction of international visitors could reach 40 percent. No country is the same anymore since COVID-19 crossed Chinese borders and, as published in Mexico Business News, predominantly touristic countries will be the most affected in the post-confined world.
Many Mexican states with interests in the industry are looking for solutions. The priority today is to plan strategies that allow a rapid recovery of the sector once the contingency is over. Returning to normalcy as soon as possible is the mantra and changing the human perception toward the industry is the main concern of states like Quintana Roo, Baja California Sur, Guerrero or Michoacan. In this context, the proximity of the destination, sustainability and digitalization when making reservations will play a key role in the tourism of the future.
The paradigm has changed and so has the model that allowed Mexico to become an international power. This is the opinion of Fernando Olivera, Minister of Tourism of Tamaulipas. “We have to develop a non-traditional tourism, with short routes that allow an economic spill in different places,” said Olivera during a webinar organized by Incubatour.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that Latin American airlines will accumulate losses of US$15 billion by the end of 2020, representing the worst crisis in the history of this sector in the region. That is why Olivera projects that road transport will become indispensable because of “the fear of COVID-19” and the declining purchasing power of tourists, who will avoid air travel to bet on austerity.
In Italy, lidos, private concessions for the exploitation of a beach, are part of the summer landscape. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, authorities are considering, as published in La Republica, the creation of small methacrylate structures for bathers to avoid physical contact as much as possible. Something similar is being considered by some airlines, which are considering the possibility of drastically reducing the number of passengers per flight. Tickets will be more expensive, but the carbon footprint will be the same. Ecology and austerity will therefore become key players in an industry that was not used to these concepts in the past. “Many experts are already talking about reconfiguring planes and buses to avoid concentrating people in one place. This will also change the configuration of the beaches and restaurants,” added Olivera in the same forum.
For Darío Flota, Director General of the Quintana Roo Tourism Promotion Council, “ease of travel will be a determining factor in the recovery of touristic destinations in the Mexican Caribbean,” one of the most affected by the crisis and with more difficulties of recovery, since it is the Mexican destination that receives more international tourists.
Juliet Kinsman, a specialist in luxury travel, writer and Founder of Bouteco.co, pointed out in an article for Condé Nast Traveler that the main trend in tourism once the world begins to return to pre-COVID-19 normality will be to travel to closer destinations, minimizing the time spent in train stations and airports. In addition, she anticipates a significant increase in demand, while supply will be reduced. In Spain, for example, the search for holidays for January 2021 increased by 2,000 percent. Kinsman also foresees greater difficulty in obtaining tourist visas, increased health checks at ports and airports, possible requirement of health certificates for travel and a significant increase in the price of travel insurance, until recently very affordable.
In terms of sustainability, the future of tourism will be oriented to maintaining what has been achieved through confinement; in other words, turning necessity into virtue. Whales have returned to the shores of Orange County, California; Venice’s canals have been filled with dolphins, cities have lost their smog clouds and national and nature parks have become very attractive destinations in just a couple of months. Every country in the world has one of these destinations in one way or another. Respecting sustainability and the human footprint, they could spearhead the new tourism industry.