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What will tourism be like after the pandemic?

Reduced risks, innovation and sustainability will shape the future of the tourism sector after the pandemic

The president of the Spanish Association of Tourism Professionals, the highest expert on this matter from the consultancy KPMG, and the also expert and professor of economics and business of the Universidad Oberta of Catalonia explain the future of travel.

12 May 2020

No one doubts that tourism will change after Covid-19, but the experts explain that this change will take place in several stages. Santiago Aguilar, president of the Spanish Association of Tourism Professionals (AEPT), says that “we will immediately see changes in travel habits, with people choosing closer destinations and shorter travel distances”. While “in the offer, we will see profound changes in how services are provided, and suppliers will have to adapt to the social-health risk reduction measures, such as reducing capacity in transportation and in hotels, reduced use of textiles, changes in the standards for breakfasts and communal areas, etc.”

However, Aguilar believes that “these measures will be temporary, and as soon as a vaccine or an effective treatment is discovered, we will return to our previous habits at a good rhythm, although the recovery of demand will be inevitably linked to the reactivation of the economy”.

Luis Buzzi, the partner in charge of the Tourism sector at KPMG, is convinced that, after the pandemic, the tourism sector will see a “change in paradigm that will impact multiple fields, among these the decision to travel, the choice of destination and means, digitalisation and innovation, sustainability and social return”. Over the short-term and in private leisure travel “the decision to travel will be influenced mainly by the possibility for mobility, economic confidence and possibilities and the uncertainty generated by the recession”. And over the long-term, “without a doubt, the same incentives for enjoying travel and the experiences it entails will return and, therefore, the decision to travel will continue to be a preferred option for enjoying vacation periods, and we do not envisage a change in paradigm”.

Buzzi says that “over the long-term the choice of destination will also be subject to the guarantees regarding health safety and mobility, as well as the sustainability of the destination and its establishments, which must be socially responsible in order for clients to consider them. And this sustainability is not just environmental, but also in its contribution to society and to fair job conditions”. He also points out that “digitalisation will be essential when it comes to being able to interact and influence the client and reduce the pain points during the process of contracting and interaction with the value chain agents. We will go from a transactional model (for example, selling rooms) to a relational model (selling experiences)”.

In his opinion, “technologies such as computerised viewing with artificial intelligence, thermal imaging cameras and monitoring of clients or aspects pertaining to securing transactions to automate processes through blockchain will become normal in the future”. And, lastly, he states that “there will not be satisfactory experiences if they do not include a contribution towards sustainability, which will be one of the relevant factors when deciding on a destination”.

Recovery at different speeds

The expert in tourism Pablo Díaz Luque, professor of Economy and Business Studies with the Universidad Oberta de Cataluña (UOC), considers that “if there is not a rebound in number of cases of this or of other viruses, and economic recovery is on the horizon, we should expect a recovery at different speeds depending on segments of tourists, destinations and places of origin”. In any case, he said that “the virus will have important consequences for several sectors of activity and for the public sector work itself, and certain business models will have difficulties surviving”.

In Díaz’ opinion, the public sector has a significant opportunity in its power, on two levels. “One as the initial weight-bearer and subsequent relaunch agent of activity of the sector. The current subsidies for survival and support for reactivation are proven to be essential”. However, he added that “it also has the chance to become an agent for regulation of an activity that is more sustainable and of better quality over the long-term”. Thus, “balanced supervision and monitoring of the international tourism activity must be used to promote tourism that is more harmonious, respectful and controlled”.