Tourism in the wake of COVID
There are bridges to cross, mountains to climb and a winding road...
Not another travel trends post, yes I'm afraid! One of my favourite sections of' my Tourism in the Wake of COVID' report was writing about the trends on how we will recover from this terrible downturn.
These trends may be no surprise to you - academics, tourism associations, and the media agree: Niche markets and products will grow.
Mass tourism is unsustainable and has a devastating impact, Destination Managers and Tour Operators need to create products that work with the community and protect the environment. Destination management organisations need to engage beyond typical tourism stakeholders to develop new products. A level of resilience will need to be built into new product development and itineraries.
New demographics need to be recognised, there is such a focus on the growing 65+ market that the millennial, Get Y, and X are being shunned - 40% of travel expenditure is from this market. For content, I am a millennial by the skin of my teeth. 40 years old, a young family, and a disposable income. There are a lot of us!
Adventure tourism is not a new niche market. Adventure tourists are more resilient, they want to travel and are happy to take risks. The benefit to the destination includes money staying in the community, job creation and increased conservation of the environment and culture. Destination managers, product manager and travellers alike will seek more adventure based trips as open spaces and fresh air are sought in the post-COVID world.
Slow Travel will grow, Millennials, Gen X and Y are looking for travel experiences that have meaning, tell a story and give back. Slow travel is moving from being a concept to a product with brands looking for market share. Whole companies are embracing slow travel and product reviews are taking place to add slow itineraries to established product ranges.
Slow travel is lower impact as avoids air travel, immersive as travellers have enriching cultural experiences en route. There will be a shift in the behaviour of tourist as the need to move away from low-cost air travel and multiple getaways to ensure our planet is protected.
New product to market for slow tourism to grow. Companies can achieve their climate goals as Slow Travel avoids aircraft, companies like Responsible Travel are reviewing itineraries and replacing short carbon heavy internal flights with train and bus journeys.
Last Chance Tourism
Should this even been a trend? It certainly makes me cringe. Last Change Tourism is the concept of visiting environments and heritage sites before they are gone. LCT is an unsustainable form of tourism. There is a paradox between LCT and carbon emissions, destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef and Polar regions require carbon-heavy flights and cruises to accommodate tourists. In Australia, it has been found that tourists do not understand the impact of flying halfway across the world to see a dying ecosystem. More must be done to educate and create products that help protect the precious environment.
Polar tourists have shifted demographically from older more educated tourists to adventure seekers. Implementing citizen science on cruises will change the tourist gaze and add educational value. This is the only way Last Chance Tourism can have a future!
Wildlife and Nature Tourism
Wildlife and nature tourism suffered from loss of conservation income during the pandemic. Wildlife and nature tourism will rebound quicker as it operators in spacious environments Nature-based tourism is sustainable, supports conservation and can alleviate poverty. The UK domestic market will see a growth in wildlife and nature tourism as people seek to explore what's on their doorstep. ReWilding projects such as Knepp and Annerdale incorporate tourism to enhance their income and educate.
Volunteer tourism saw a decline due ethical concerns and potential negative effects of Western altruism but now a new style of volunteer tourism will grow. It will be environmentally focussed with less negative impact on the community. Travellers will want to give back to their destination through beach cleans, conservation projects, tree planting and citizen science. Volunteering many not be the main driver for a trip but a small element of an itinerary. New volunteer projects need to be carefully managed to ensure they are not detrimental to the environment or community.
Health and Wellbeing
Traditional wellness holidays are based around spas and health is the main driver. Health and wellness trips are set to change and become focussed on transformative experiences in nature, digital detox and going “off grid”. Wellbeing may not be the primary driver so products will incorporate elements of wellness such as walking and mindfulness.
Food tourism can ensure the spread of tourism wealth beyond the normal stakeholders and create new revenue for a local business. Local artisan food producers will offer experiences that are authentic to their area, tell a story, and increase income. Enabling local people to diversify will drive innovation in tourism.
Indigenous tourism needs to grow with the community as the focus. Trends suggest travellers want more local immersive experiences, but this cannot come at the cost of the local community. Benefits of increased visitor numbers include increased revenue, education of traditional ways and more opportunities for women.