It took almost the entire calendar year of 2010 for pharmaceutical companies to get a virus that works. It will be this month or next when the first recipients will have their upper arms ready for the small prick of the needle that delivers the vaccines that have been developed to contain and eventually eliminate the COVID-19 virus. The new vaccine has been heralded as a savior for the world’s travel and tourism industry. Relief is on the way.
For the millions worldwide who have been laid off, furloughed or otherwise re-routed from their careers in tourism as a result of the COVID-driven global pandemic, the presence and potential of a vaccine will help to facilitate a shift in attitude: Instead of wondering, with little hope, if they would ever get back to the industry they know, there is now the hope that they might be able to return to selling, marketing, promoting and operating the tourism product.
What does all this mean? Here are some thoughts.
• If there has been one lesson that the team at Connect Travel’s INBOUND Report has had underscored and amplified for them in the past nine-plus months, it is that the professionals and managers who lead the industry remain the most resourceful and innovative of professionals of any other economic sector.
• Realizing the interdependence of the industry’s many components, tourism managers have pressed for, and receive from, federal government lump-sum payments and loans totaling in the scores of billions of dollars to help long-haul carriers weather the pandemic storm.
• Receptive tour operators, both small and mid-size, have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. But many are family owned and/or have small staffs. They cannot just lay off, furlough or make themselves part-time. So, as have many other components of the tourism industry, receptives have been reducing expenditures by operating remotely—”attending” virtual meetings and making sales calls online.
• Strapped for cash, international tour operators have already started selling, and seeking deposits for, long-haul travel (not just for 2021 and 2022) in 2023! Even before the word “vaccine” became common parlance in the industry, receptive tour operators and their partners began bravely preparing product for Q2 ‘21and Q3 ‘21, gambling that progress on getting the pandemic under control would be made. Such activity turns out to have been a good bet: once more destinations and activities roll out more product, these operators and their partners will already have had their pipeline open and ready to operate.
• No business, no matter how big they are, has been immune from the pandemic’s economic squeeze. TUI, Europe’s largest tour operator, recently announced that it was delaying payments to hotels. (This suggests, naturally, that if TUI is feeling the financial crush, then others must be feeling it as well. And they are.)
• Destinations accustomed to the revenue stream driven by international visitors found themselves with no long-haul air service to bring customers and clients to the USA. As a result, over the course of this past summer and into the fall, some DMOs and airlines have been successful in patching together short-haul “travel bubbles” that emphasize in-country or close-in regional travel product.
• If they’ve left the tourism industry, where are they going? We can’t come up with a reliable figure on the matter but, on the basis of the number of personal notices we’ve seen on the social media, it seems that more than a few former travel sales managers or directors have found a new job and home within the large services sector that include, for example, insurance, real estate and health care facilities (Does the latter suggest the hotel GMs and/or COOs at attractions and travel experiences have what it takes to long-term health care facilities, retirement homes or retirement communities?)
• Beyond Zoom. While the Oxford Dictionary has other English words as candidates, the mostly widely-known new word in the tourism industry is Zoom. Some businesses and organizations have taken the use of Zoom to new and higher levels in pacing, timing and fresh dialogue. Go to YouTube and take a look and listen at anyone of the three dozen or so programs in Connect Travel’s series of virtual roundtables on far-ranging subjects particular to the travel and tourism industry.
Connect, which last month in Orland held the first-of-their-kind series of tourism industry in-person and live marketplaces and conferences, is working on state-of-the-art meetings that incorporate some of the features that were well-received in Orlando into its schedule of events for 2021.
• Safe Bets—China and the UK: For 2019, before the pandemic crisis threw itself at the global travel and tourism industry, China and the UK, were the number three and number two overseas source markets for inbound tourism to the USA. The UK is about to inoculate its citizens with vaccines that neutralize COVID-19 virus, and Americans will be next. Most recent surveys of UK travelers tell us that there is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for travel to the USA. Meanwhile, the people of China, which has reduced COVID-19 to a point at which new cases are near or at zero, are—by all indications—ready to resume long-haul travel. The key to opening the sluice gates for tourism from China and the UK to the United States will be airline lift capacity.
• To be continued … Join the dialogue by writing us and letting us and our readers know what you have been doing to respond to the damage of the global pandemic and how you have prepared for a return to (a new) normal. Just leave a reply below.