We are in the process of losing the version of tourism that we are familiar with. The anguish in this loss has been felt far and wide, measured in terms of economic impacts ranging from the struggles of business continuity by small enterprises, to loss of jobs, and the tapered ease of travel occasioned by need to restrict mobility over concerns for safety. Damaging trends underway the COVID economy in tourism are glaring. Thus, everyone affected cannot be passive and accepting of the current and impending losses. Oddly enough, the sector is responding from a puzzling double choice place. Two options currently evident; building back the sector as it was, or looking for alternatives to a different future of tourism.
The most important thing to be aware of is that in responding, it is not certain that the version of tourism that we are familiar with, will almost be replaced by a better tourism. We can choose a way out by replicating everything in tourism as we knew it to this new dawn. This is an easy option to dull the anguish felt in the sector, from aviation, to hospitality and travel operations, simply by reopening tourism. We will recover everything at stake now including markets, visitor numbers, business revenues, and many more. But here is the downside, destructive features at the core of tourism like rush for profits at all costs, exploitation of nature’s resources to exhaustion, sector’s pre inclination to short-term thinking, pursuing growth for the sole benefit to stakeholders with economic interests, and willful blindness of the sector’s impacts will also resurface.
The loss of the version of tourism that we are familiar with can be an exit for destructive features core to tourism. Keeping in mind how tourism in some places could run as an enormous uncontrolled experiment, these features can be self-destructive if allowed to resurface. Truth be told, tourism’s unintended consequences in many destinations are outpouring. Therefore, in replicating the version of tourism that we are familiar with, we should be wary of the boundaries that the sector transgresses. Possibly, this is the last chance to get the future of tourism right by building tourism forward.
A number of issues are urgent; a low carbon imperative for destinations, social structures that have motivations other than profit, and disposing tourism to plan for the long term. In this loss, the destroyer in tourism must make a final exit, replaced by the less damaging tourism that allows the planet and people to thrive. That’s the choice we have to make out of the double life of this exit. This is why we need to be energized for action and have clear thinking to build a better tourism with a future that does not replicate the negative traits of its past.