By Jeanine Pires

While there was a forecast for growth in global tourism of 3-4% in 2020, a drop of 20-30% in trips and a loss of $300-450 billion in spending by international travelers can now be estimated.

Now is the time to put people’s well-being first – there is no question about this responsibility, which is global. In the case of the travel and tourism industry, one of the most impacted in light of the pandemic, we are aware that it is experiencing a completely unprecedented scenario. People have just stopped moving. From the simplest of journeys, within cities, to long international trips, everyone is at home protecting themselves and preventing the spread of contagion. Although it is too early to reach a conclusion, and we are all still evaluating and attempting to understand what is happening and what the new horizons will be, we can already calculate a huge loss in the sector, from small companies to large enterprises. Airlines alone have already projected a loss of $252 billion in 2020, which according to IATA, accounts to $39 billion in tickets purchased and not used, which should be the responsibility of the companies.

While there was a forecast for growth in global tourism of 3-4% in 2020, a drop of 20-30% in trips and a loss of $300-450 billion in spending by international travelers can now be estimated, cording to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Also, according to the entity, the industry should take 5-7 years to recover from the losses of 2020. To have an idea, during the 2009 global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals fell by 4%, while during the SARS epidemic, in 2003, the decrease amounted to only 0.4%. Here in Brazil, according to the Brazilian Association of Airline Companies (ABEAR), in the week of March 23 this year, the member companies already presented a 75% decrease in domestic demand and a 95% decrease internationally over the same period in 2019.

Even though it is an unprecedented crisis and a complex panorama, I believe that it is important to exchange ideas and design future scenarios – not trying to imagine, but rather trying to view what changes can occur in our industry. The only certainty is that we are no longer the same business, and that the answers to our current questions are probably still changing. We should now think and reassess ideas continuously, and for that reason, I would like to reflect on 5 topics from which we can start in order to exchange ideas:

  1. As was the case after 9/11, many new health restrictions and security measures should become part of travel journeys. Since security is a concern for travelers and border authorities, everyone should seek to travel with protection and avoid possible contagion. With safety as a priority, the challenge for authorities and entrepreneurs will be to ensure that protective measures are taken without jeopardizing travel, saving time and ensuring the free movement of people;
  2. Depending on how the pandemic evolves in each country and continent, as well as the different habits and ways of traveling across each country and culture, we can initially witness the predominance of domestic travel. While in their own countries, people have more information and feel more secure, being more comfortable to make trips for business and leisure. I suppose that the resumption of international travel will vary a lot according to each country, its reality, the progressive offer of flights, and the situation of the entire chain of the local travel and tourism sector. As tourism is an activity that has shown great recovery capacity for decades, we should observe how consumer behavior will be like at the end of 2020 and in the peak-season periods of each continent so that we can understand the step of the gradual recovery;
  3. Urgent need for a dialogue between public authorities and entrepreneurs in order to minimize impacts and ensure the survival of companies and jobs and the recovery of a sector that is responsible for 1 out of every 10 jobs on the planet. Depending on the size of the company, the duration (still unpredictable) of the crisis and travel stoppages, and the segment in which it operates, measures are needed to monitor the scenario on a daily basis and which are objectively able to help and support companies to maintain jobs and face the crisis. Several global and national entities have already released recommendations and guidelines that help to understand the types of measures that can be taken;
  4. Changing consumer habits is another trend that we can expect, even if it is still too early to understand how they will occur. The idea of avoiding places with too many people and practicing overtourism may catch on (but for other reasons). Alternatively, the demand for sustainable attitudes can also be high, with a search for destinations where respect for the environment will translate into more health security in all aspects (means of accommodation, food, beaches, nature, and respect for local culture, among others). Perhaps, we could experience changes in vacation periods, when the search for off-season travel may occur. Unfortunately, we will also be able to witness prejudice regarding the origin of tourists, with prejudiced or pejorative behavior on the part of local communities or even professionals. We cannot fully conceive the changes yet, but customers should certainly play more and more a leading role in their decisions, in the search for more authentic, yet safer experiences and with an even more engaged interaction in all stages of their trips;
  5. Corporate adaptation and image: These will certainly be aspects on which we have to focus our attention in the post-pandemic scenario. Companies will be required to assess changes quickly and make adaptations to ensure their competitiveness, keeping in mind, that more than just management, key adaptations will comprise those that understand and meet the needs of customers. This is directly related to the image of your brand, which will have to provide a sense of even more security, transmit real values ​,​and demonstrate its dedication to quick and accurate responses to consumers. This applies for both companies and destinations, which will have new communication and marketing challenges. What will the promotion of destinations be like in the new scenario, where security will have an even broader and more demanding dimension? What and how to communicate? How to talk about experiences and really allow tourists to feel part of something that will satisfy new needs?

What do you think of these aspects? Help us think and evaluate this difficult scenario and look for ways that can help the tourism travel industry successfully overcome this current challenge.



A professor and entrepreneur, she has 19 years of experience in tourism and events. Director of Pires & Associados and MATCHER Travel Business. Her main activities are the organization of Marketing Plans for Tourist Destinations and lectures in Brazil and abroad. She chaired EMBRATUR from 2006 to 2010, where she also served as Director of Business Tourism and Events. She led the work of promoting Brazil as a tourist destination abroad, the programs for attracting international events, and the promotion agenda for Brazil from 2003 to 2010. She participated in the development of the Aquarela Plan – International Tourism Marketing in Brazil in 2005 and coordinated its version for 2020. At the Convention & Visitors Bureau in Maceió and Recife as executive director, she developed leisure and event marketing programs for those cities between 1997 and 2002. This blog reflects personal opinions and has no institutional links.

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