The Future of the Travel Industry

A holiday that is not a holiday!

It suddenly hit me, that for the first time in a very, very long time, I will have a holiday, but, I will not be able to travel….anywhere. Even my travel to the shops has restrictions. That is no holiday for me, and I know there are plenty of other people who suffer from severe itchy feet like I do.

So, suddenly, all the travel withdraw symptoms hit and reality struck. I cannot travel. I had great plans for Europe and the Americas this year and now Covid19 has really put a whole different spin on my travel plans and how people travel, if you travel at all.

Watching the world shut down has been surreal, it’s like watching a series on Netflix unfold, every scene brings in something totally unexpected. As someone who suffers from itchy feet, the thought of not being able to freely cross borders is quite daunting. I feel like I had only just started seeing the world and the world was opening up to me…visa approvals have not been difficult, friends and family in various destinations were waiting to host me then suddenly everything shut down.

Navigating through murky waters.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has acknowledged that the tourism sector has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19. The damage is not only in the lack of ability to travel, the economic impact that comes with it is incredible. The latest tourism figures from the global airline industry indicate that in 2019, 4.5 million people travelled by air and the projections for 2020 indicated that the previous projections set for 2020 travel would be surpassed. It’s easy to see how the Travel and tourism industry would have a massive impact on employment. In some destinations, 1 in every 5 jobs are tourism jobs.

So travellers have been caught off guard and tourism organisations too.  It’s difficult to know what anything will be like when we get through it all, like what is the future of airlines, what is the future of destinations? Will the tourism industry survive this at all?  What happens to visas that had been granted but now travel is cancelled and will travel bans raised be removed?

What happens to the tour guide who made a living from commission from tours and guiding? We have always had tourism solutions on a destination level, if not solutions, we had templates and models to copy from and emulate; and theories of how things can work. But now the crisis is on a global level! We are all in the same ship.

In 2012, Dubai set out a Tourism Vision set to roll out this year, 2020. The vision was to turn tourism into Dubai’s economic pillar. Home to one of the world’s busiest hubs, COVID19 will have major impacts on the international receipts projected for the Emirate in 2020. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says tourism is the world’s largest economic sector supporting one in 10 jobs which equates to 319 million jobs worldwide and generating 10, 4% of world GDP.

So what is the Future of tourism?

It’s premature to come up with effective strategies as we don’t know what is in store from one day to the next. Mankind has been locked in. So the earth is still and Mother Nature is healing. I’ve heard friends and family in different parts of the world say “we can hear the birds singing now” and that “the air is crisp”. Perhaps we needed this discipline as humans to appreciate our environment more, to appreciate nature more. We needed to get back to basics of simply conserving and preserving. So that when we come out of this, we know the true meaning of sustainability.

Locally, there’s no doubt that this pandemic may be the birthing of the Zimbabwean domestic market which has struggled for some time. For any destination, domestic travel is the safest bet. Some countries have succeeded in getting this right already. If the domestic market is the country’s biggest market, getting tourism back on it’s feet could be easier. Zimbabwe’s domestic market was only starting to pick up, with more and more people visiting places on day visits and short breaks. Hopefully the momentum will pick up even more.

The main difficulty and complaint with the Zimbabwe domestic market is that locals have always found it to be expensive. It had always been relatively cheaper to visit some international destinations than it was to visit the local destinations. There’s a point in time where flying to Victoria Falls from Harare, was almost the same as flying to Dubai from Harare. As global economics have been affected, maybe this is the time to get things right. Everyone is getting a second chance at restarting.

Camel Riding in Dubai

Hopefully Zimbabwe too, will be able to ride this wave. We can only speculate for now. We cannot tell what the future will hold for the tourism industry, but, we can start planning for the future we would want. That’s tourism that is not used as a money game, tourism which is not one side and benefits a few. We want tourism that is sustainable, that is accessible. A world in which people act responsibly when they travel because they are aware of the consequences they may have on the next traveller. A world in which people develop pride in their environment and therefore fight in safeguarding it.

We must remember or come to the realisation that we are custodians of this world and therefore we are to look after it.

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas  and established it on the rivers…

Psalm 24 1-2

No Travelling….Stay Safe!

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