Tourism and Covid-19: What is the idea of resilience for tourism businesses?

COVID-19 induced tourism crisis rapidly transitioned commercial tourism from a state of normalcy to turbulence in business operations. There is more of transitioning ahead for tourism businesses, which are now staring at likely change from crisis period to a “new normal”. The double transition, and an awareness that the tourism sector remains exposed and is vulnerable to risks and uncertainties that may throw in additional changes, make more businesses in tourism to desire resilience. Resilient businesses are able to adapt, manage turbulence and adversity, and leap forward in the wake of transitions. Therefore, resilience seems the key factor for business continuity after crisis from the current pandemic. It offers a chance to reorganize the business, even when tourism is at a standstill. Resilience thus prepares tourism businesses for coming challenges like climate change impacts, disease outbreaks, and internal business risks among others.

What is the idea of resilience for tourism businesses? Building resilience could be a combination of several factors, so we ran an online poll asking our audiences to choose a preference of the options present for businesses to build resilience as tourism reopens.

Beyond compliance with safety protocols, what else are tourism and travel businesses prioritizing to build resilience as tourism reopens?

Digitalization – 30%

New business alliances – 6.7%

New product mix – 23.3%

Sustainability values – 40%

As tourism reopens, businesses are prioritizing sustainability values and paying attention to digitalization as well as new product mix. Safety, sanitation, & security are now a must-have product features for offers in tourism. New business alliances are seen when businesses are getting together more as social units, to navigate sectoral challenges from the pandemic. In the emergency period following the pandemic, industry alliances were helpful in creating unified messages for COVID-19 responses, deliberate options for their survival, and jointly fundraise for initiatives to act on COVID-19. Digital developments are important now than ever before, bearing in mind transitions on the client’s side to do purchases online, during the lockdown period. These options link to prioritizing economic resilience, as this is where the pandemic disrupted most from a business perspective. Economic resilience is important to safeguard business prosperity and financial benefits, e.g. by stabilizing market sources or cutting down costs.

Indeed, with plans for economic resilience, travel and tourism businesses will be better equipped to deal with change and survive. Nevertheless, resilience does not happen by chance; it needs leadership and social capital to give it some sense of direction, or else risks being counterproductive. Businesses need not have a resilience plan that is counterproductive, for example promoting aspects to support their own survival, even when this survival posits damages to others. To ensure that the primary focus of resilience does not compromise the resilience of other aspects of destinations, businesses must question whether the resilience can be counterproductive, and for whom.

Tourism will be able to thrive if resilience fosters sustainability, if not, the sector risks perpetuating inequalities inherent in tourism relationships. As tourism restarts, businesses should build resilience in a way that also overcomes social and economic inequalities in tourism.