Trends Highlighted by COVID-19
Tourism is a huge global industry. According to Statista(opens in a new tab), leisure tourism spending has been steadily increasing since 2001. $1830 billion US dollars were handed over at the turn of the century with yearly spending peaking at $4692 billion in 2019. But with coronavirus grinding tourism to a halt in 2020, there have been shifts in focus within the travel world and people started to question practices.
While there’s no doubt that the pandemic changed our approach to travel, but it also gave us a moment to reflect on how we travel. In different parts of the world throughout the widespread lockdowns, we saw the effect it had on the environment around us. Nitrogen levels in the air(opens in a new tab) dropped considerably over China while animals have found a new sense of confidence and freedom like the pumas were freely wandering the streets(opens in a new tab) of Chile’s capital Santiago. But it wasn’t all positive. Single-use plastic consumption rocketed(opens in a new tab) during lockdowns and mental health across the globe was seriously impacted. The desire to travel was never lost as desperate travellers were imagining their next trip but many questioned our pre-pandemic methods.
We’ve seen that tourism isn’t going anywhere, but what is changing is the attitude towards it. The trends discussed below are not direct products of the pandemic, but their value was highlighted by the change in our approach and it seems like they’re here to stay.
This umbrella term means to consider current and future economic implications, social and environmental impacts, visitor requirements, and impacted communities. This isn’t a new phenomenon but over the last few years, there has been a significant shift within the tourism industry to highlight efforts to educate, conserve, and reduce the impact on the environment and its natural surroundings.
The pandemic has awakened a deeper appreciation for the outdoors, meaning sustainable tourism(opens in a new tab) is more relevant than ever before. Being restricted to a confined space for weeks on end has encouraged more and more people to explore our natural world. The Scientific American(opens in a new tab) found that just a 50-minute walk through a park increased cognitive skills and helped alleviate acute stress.
Another reason sustainable tourism has been highlighted in recent times is the numerous environmental catastrophes that have occurred across the globe. Wildfires through Australia and Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, Germany’s recent floods, South Africa’s water shortage crisis, unfortunately, the list goes on.
In light of these issues, the tourism industry has amped up its approach(opens in a new tab) to how we travel in an attempt to offset our impact on the environment. Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili from the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) said(opens in a new tab), “Sustainability must no longer be a niche part of tourism but must be the new norm for every part of our sector… It is in our hands to transform tourism and that emerging from COVID-19 becomes a turning point for sustainability”.
We’re seeing more and more travel agencies, transportation companies, resorts and accommodations, and tour operators advertising and implementing greener steps in their day-to-day lives. From reducing plastic waste(opens in a new tab) and introducing battery-powered vehicles(opens in a new tab) to financially supporting local and international conservation projects (like A Whale’s Song Expeditions(opens in a new tab) who donate 5% of their profits to non-profit organisations), it’s slowly but surely becoming the norm.
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainable tourism and tips on how to make changes, read One Planet’s vision for responsible recovery by clicking here(opens in a new tab).
Another 2020 buzzword that was propelled into popularity was staycations. Choosing to holiday in and around your home country as opposed to travelling abroad. The staycations is not a new term but the phenomenon had a resurgence during the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and border closures that followed.
As of May 2021, Fáilte Ireland, the Republic of Ireland’s tourism authority, has invested in the ‘Keep Discovering(opens in a new tab)’ campaign. The purpose focuses on urging citizens to continue to holiday domestically and to help rebuild Ireland’s tourism industry.
But will staycations continue to be a staple in tourism for years to come, or were they just a plaster over a travel pipe that was waiting to burst? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers but the curiosity to travel your own country has certainly grown exponentially and aside from it now being more fashionable to holiday at home, the staycation also appeals to certain demographics, even after the borders fully reopen. Think of big families or groups of friends who can avoid the hassle of international travel and going away together.
But as a tour operator, how could staycations benefit you? A route to consider is to offer local or large family discounts in an attempt at attracting and securing returning local customers(opens in a new tab). And depending on the services you offer, check with your local or national tourism board to see if they have any free online marketing tools or services like this(opens in a new tab) that will help attract those customers looking to holiday at home. If you decide to go local, there are plenty of resources(opens in a new tab) to help you change your strategy smoothly.
Wellness tourism(opens in a new tab) is a means to travel to maintain, manage, or improve health and wellbeing. According to US and India-based company Grand View Research(opens in a new tab), the global wellness tourism industry was valued at 683.3 billion US dollars in 2018, with projections that it will only continue to grow. Interestingly, in that same year, the largest market share came from domestic travellers, they spent 150% more than the average international wellness tourist.
Wellness Tourism has become a fashionable trend. From 12-day yoga and spiritual retreats across India to $6000 ‘sea wellness’ cruises with Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow, the industry appeals to those looking for a more luxurious experience.
But you don’t need to be a multimillion-dollar corporation to offer these types of services. A number of current Tourism Tiger clients offer an array of wellness-related activities that appeal to those on a budget. Running Reindeer(opens in a new tab) based in Alaska offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy a ‘Fly and Flow Yoga Class With Reindeer(opens in a new tab)’! Not everyone has a reindeer handy but Get in the Wild(opens in a new tab) in Utah takes advantage of their unique landscape and offers professional yoga classes in Goblin Valley State Park(opens in a new tab). Another example is Wild Adventures Melbourne(opens in a new tab) who offers a Hot Springs, Hikes, and Humpbacks tour(opens in a new tab) where guests take part in yoga sessions next to active thermal pools and enjoy a relaxing winter hike through Melbourne’s beautiful wilderness to numerous whale-watching viewpoints.
Could your tour business offer a wellness-focused experience?
According to a report from Crescentrating(opens in a new tab), the world’s leading authority on Halal travel, Muslim arrivals peaked at an estimated 160 million in 2019, an all-time high. 2020 took an expected hit to travel, reducing numbers to around 40 million visitors but projections reveal that 2023 will see the return of the record numbers, if not surpassing them. Muslim tourist spending also grew to $194 billion USD in 2019, increasing by $5 billion from the previous year according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2020/21 Report(opens in a new tab).
But what is Halal? Halal is an Arabic word meaning ‘permissible for Muslims(opens in a new tab)’. It is a growing market trend with Muslim tourists seeking destinations that meet their needs in terms of diet, dress, and rituals. And in light of these findings, many tour operators have begun shifting their focus to adopt practices that would welcome more and more Muslim tourists. From prayer facilities to certified Halal food, could your tour business adapt offerings to welcome more Muslim tourists?(opens in a new tab)
The pandemic forced a lot of office-based workers to change location and work from home. Now that borders have begun to open again, the option to work remotely has continued and for those feeling a little more adventurous, some have decided to take their office with them on the road.
Workationers are people who can work from anywhere as long as they have a laptop and a wifi connection. These individuals have slightly different needs from your average traveller. They will be working and living in a chosen area, so they’ll need accommodation that allows them to stay mid-long term. They want a community experience, and to immerse themselves in the culture of their location. In general, they want to avoid feeling like a tourist.
A few ways to consider if you would like to appeal to these remote workers is to post your bookings on the correct platforms. If you offer accommodation, Airbnb, Booking, etc are good places to start and think about reassessing prices for those looking to stay mid-long term. Do you have culturally immersive tours? Great, ensure they’re clearly highlighted on the postins too.
Also, take advantage of the hundreds of Facebook groups set up by like-minded professionals looking for these types of experiences. Once you grab their attention with your property offerings or experiences, direct them to your website so they can book securely.
These are only a handful of examples of how the tourism world is constantly adapting and as a tour operator, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends and consider adding or readjusting your offerings to benefit from them.
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