Though the coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy of generational significance, it’s important that we try to look for positives as we map a route towards recovery.
With the spread of COVID-19 exacerbated by both social and economic factors that underpinned life pre-corona, this recovery will depend on our ability to create a future that looks quite a lot different to a past that feels more distant by the day.
One of the most glaringly obvious effects of this evolving new reality is the markedly cleaner air in cities across the world. As more of us travel less, pollution – believed by many scientists to intensify the symptoms of COVID-19 – has dropped.
This raises a question: is it not our duty as custodians of the planet to ensure we never allow such damage to be caused again?
One area that requires an urgent rethink is the travel industry.
Post-corona, cruises and airlines will be required to implement on-board social distancing measures. They’ll also have to confront what is expected to be a huge drop in demand, as holidaymakers wary of travelling opt for safer staycations instead. With mass unemployment expected and budgets therefore much smaller, potential customers will likely regard travel as less of a priority – at least in the short term.
Tour operators and tourist boards will also have to fundamentally alter the products they offer. Though the impact we as tourists have on local communities and ecosystems was increasingly in the spotlight pre-corona, the months and years ahead will see it graduate from a key consideration to a basic requirement: we simply cannot go back to the crowded destinations that were once a staple of our lives.
While the need for a holiday will not diminish, Guerillascope believes travellers will now focus on longer, one-off getaways. Short city breaks, weekend jollies abroad and business trips will all fall sharply – and travel brands will need to be ready.
Destinations off the beaten track and unique cultural experiences will rise in prominence, bringing with them a heightened appreciation for the natural world and our place within it.
Meanwhile, high polluters will suffer, as customers consider with added scrutiny the impact their holiday will have on both themselves and others; for many, cut-price deals and packages will no longer carry the sheen they once had.
It will come down to how seriously brands take their responsibilities. If they’re driven by profits alone then they will be punished for it; authentic green credentials will be the key mark of a brand people can trust and engage with.
We also expect to see travel brands working more proactively in partnership with environmental groups and local communities to develop itineraries that both cut our risk of exposure to infection and reduce our impact on the planet.
In other words, sustainability will no longer be a useful marketing tool companies use disingenuously – it will become the basis of entire business models.
Ultimately, while the tragedy of this pandemic is something that will stay with us for years to come, we must also use it as an opportunity to create a better, greener world. Sustainable Tourism Week gives us a chance to start visualising what this will look like.
We fully expect the travel industry to be leading from the front as we move tentatively into this new reality, and we’ll be working with our clients to ensure a successful transition.