Tourism and Covid-19: Turning points for a new normal in tourism

As we move out of a lockdown period, many destinations are opening up for tourism business, and this conveys growing confidence in the future of tourism flows. However, what is truly important is the confidence that a new dawn for tourism in post lockdown economy and beyond, will equitably benefit everyone involved. A number of options exist to tap into this confidence, as portrayed by present-day conversations, interchangeably using some “re” verbs co paired with tourism, to deliberate the best way forward for the sector to leap into the new normal. The turning point from uncertainty to new normal wavers from the recovery of tourism, to rebuilding, re-modeling, reimagining, and restarting tourism. There could be other verbs to add to the list, as defining actions to structure momentum for tourism post lockdown. The majority of these underscore the fact that drastic changes are necessary to meet expectations for a new normal. Among the array of choices, we cannot simply cherry-pick an option that has easy wins, for example, a quick return to normalcy. It is essential to filter out an option, which would best convey extra confidence that the new dawn for tourism, will equitably benefit everyone involved.

Choosing a wrong defining action to structure momentum for tourism post lockdown may provoke disastrous consequences. This means that by simply reopening tourism, without assurance of confidence in important factors for doing tourism differently within the confines of responsible practice, we are immersing ourselves in challenges. The reproach over chaos at Bournemouth, prompted by crowds of tourists flocking the beach, caution that there needs to be more to opening up for tourism. Options guiding destinations to leap to a new normal should integrate new ways of doing things differently, supporting plans for transforming tourism to contribute meaningfully to goals in sustainable development. Indeed, our poll results show the need for different tourism, reimagined, and remodeled. The options for re-imagining tourism, and restarting tourism, each scooped 36.8% votes from respondents. Tourism recovery had 18.4% while rebuilding garnered 7.9% of total votes. Tourism recovery is a return to normalcy, now characterized by a risky past and weakened by a covid-19 induced crisis. Any strategy that tends towards the recovery of a vulnerable sector is a losing game.

“Every challenge that made tourism vulnerable pre-covid-19 had enabling factors. Without targeting and addressing these enablers of vulnerabilities alongside new challenges from the pandemic, opening up tourism will mean a return to default mode,” advises Judy Kepher Gona, of #sttaconsulting. Confidence for transformed tourism lies in its restart.

A restart for tourism does not take us back to normalcy, to relive the exposure to vulnerabilities of a sector operating in business as usual, with punishing outcomes from any uncertainties it encounters. Restart taps on opportunities, to change forms of tourism and business models that put destinations at extreme vulnerabilities. Its strategy looks beyond adjustments to cope with covid-19, to acknowledging other risks and uncertainties for tourism. Above all, it does not attempt to fit existing strategies to the new normal. For a post lockdown economy and beyond, restart seems to be the only option with a robust strategy to reorient tourism to thrive.