Meditations On The Coronavirus And The Tourism Industry

What will be the impact of the coronavirus on tourism and travel? How will the tourism industry respond? Definitive answers don't exist. Instead, we offer some ideas for destinations, travel companies and travelers to operate from a position of strength, choosing deliberate response over reaction and staying the course towards greater sustainability so we emerge stronger.

A nearly empty beach on the island of Koh Muk, Thailand in high season. Due in part to the coronavirus.

The other day a client asked, “I have a big question for you. Would travelers come to [our destination] even if coronavirus stays unsolved? What is your opinion?

We’d achieved some excellent results with him, his business and the destination over the last couple of years. Implementation of tourism product development and marketing strategies had reaped benefits — not only in the growth of his organization, but also to local communities in the form of jobs, income and socio-economic opportunity. Demand for new products and tours had really begun to deepen year over year, with the upcoming summer season looking very promising just a month ago.

Now all that may change. We empathize with his concern.

As we considered our response to his question we watched the prudent yet last-minute cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020, the largest travel trade show in the world. Conversations with colleagues also intersected our thinking. The tourism industry looks very different if the extent of your dilemma is whether or not to cancel your next trip compared to if you depend on the health of the sector to put food on the family table.

A mindset to think on these things in a reasoned manner slowly revealed itself.

Shocks like the coronavirus (COVID-19) present challenges, considerations and opportunities to reflect on the way we operate — as a society and as the travel industry.

Here are a few considerations for destinations, companies, communities, donors, tourism industry colleagues, and travelers alike.

But before we dive into the detail, we take a step back for perspective.

Resilience: A Holistic Look at Travel

Resilience has become a popular term these days, especially in travel industry circles. The coronavirus offers a real-life resilience-testing laboratory. The definition of resilience suggest toughness and an ability to recover quickly from difficulties. It also implies an ability to bounce back into shape, an elasticity and flexibility to adapt to…

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