INDIA. Delhi: Almost everyone involved with the travel industry is busy analysing research papers, studies, synopsis of webinars, discussing with others, newspapers related to the pandemic, and its impact on Tourism, one of the world’s major economic sectors with people at the center. And the majority has reached a conclusion that “Let’s forget 2021 too, and start planning for 2022/23 as businesses for 2021 are gone”. Yes, some destinations and countries are doing slightly better, but for most, it’s a dead year just like 2020.
There was some hope after the lockdown of April that the second half of 2021 would be better. It was expected that the second wave of the pandemic will be over for the most part as lockdowns would have flattened the curve in the majority of the world. There was a belief that with or without vaccines, people will be tired of being confined in their houses and will come out, adjust to the conditions and start traveling again. At least the constrained demand will be there, and “40 percent occupancy” could become the new normal. But the reality turned out to be totally different – Tourism is not going to happen before 2022/23.
In order for the travel and tourism industry to emerge stronger from the pandemic, the industry must re-evolve, rebuild, and re-prioritise in order to work towards a sustainable and responsible recovery. The COVID-19 crisis is the time to align the effort of sustaining livelihoods dependent on tourism and ensuring a more resilient, inclusive, carbon-neutral, and resource-efficient future.
The slowdown of the Pandemic has provided the industry with an opportunity to relook into their sustainability efforts as research has shown that focusing on sustainability is not only a responsible practice but can lead to greater profitability. The crisis is an opportunity to rethink how tourism interacts with our societies, other economic sectors, and our natural resources and ecosystems; to measure and manage it better; to ensure a fair distribution of its benefits, and to advance the transition towards a carbon-neutral and resilient tourism economy.
We should now be looking at priority areas to cushion the massive impacts on lives and economies and to rebuild tourism. The tourism industry should be ready to:
- Mitigate socio-economic impacts on livelihoods, particularly women’s employment and economic security.
- Boost competitiveness and build resilience, including through economic diversification, with the promotion of domestic and regional tourism where possible, and facilitation of conducive business environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
- Advance innovation and digital transformation of tourism, including promotion of innovation and investment in digital skills.
- Foster sustainability and green growth to shift towards a resilient, competitive, resource-efficient, and carbon-neutral tourism sector. Green investments for recovery could target protected areas, renewable energy, smart buildings, and the circular economy, among other opportunities.
- Coordination and partnerships to restart and transform sector towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), ensuring tourism’s restart and recovery puts people first and work together to ease and lift travel restrictions in a responsible and coordinated manner.
And most importantly, as travel restrictions are gradually lifted and tourism slowly restarts in many parts of the world, health and pandemic safety protocols must continue to be a priority.
Read Also: Post-Pandemic Travel Trends