Updated: Aug 7, 2020
In my previous posts I discussed the past and the possible future of the travel industry but offered no solutions and envisioned no reactions.
Will tourism be similar or the same in the post Covid-19 world to that one of the pre-virus world? If the pandemic disappeared the answer would most probably be yes. If the pandemic exists literally or in our psyche we must introduce innovations. Now, I am not going to discuss (and argue with) the idea of slowing down the world a bit and the desired mutation of capitalism (and obviously tourism in it) by certain thinkers. They suggest curtailing the fast spinning globalized world advocating that it is the most important lesson should be learnt; slow down … Maybe, maybe not, BUT: I foresee that certain museums, restaurants and sites will apply new measures and can visualize their alteration as a permanent one. Attractions are forced (or conclude) to limit the number of visitors inventing methods like online check in or being pricier and maybe selecting their audience who can participate (by age groups, locals only) and so on. How (long) they do it – they will figure. This way the public will adjust, too and will spend their precious time and money more wisely on sites they really want to see or interested in so much that they are ready to make the sacrifice in this slower world. These new measures might not work out well for large group tours and may cause problems for future travelers to find the(ir) way to vacation under these circumstances.
Let us suppose that you are keen on voyaging again and cannot wait until the pandemic disappears completely but still afraid of sitting in a full tour bus or dine with a group lining up at the buffet table on a cruise ship or in a restaurant. What reactions can we predict? I presume the number of tourists who are able and willing to organize their own trips overseas will be increasing and the number of those who prefer organized travel with well-known and surviving (or start up) tour operators and travel agents will be decreasing. The question is whether there is a business model that may be beneficial for those who still do not want to bother with finding and booking hotels, calculating distances, estimate cost, arrange transportation, find local guides, get access to sites that are not accessible for the public but do not want to risk taking a trip with dozens of others either. If there is no pan(dem)ic, it is great fun to go on sightseeing with 40 other adventurers on the same bus socializing and so on. Time will come again in the (near) future but there will be an interim period before people start filling up cruisers and tour buses.
My opinion as an expert tour guide with hundreds of delivered excursions is that tourism will pick up slowly before the big come back. In this slower process a tour operator who can offer minivan tours for limited number of participants for the same price what bigger companies offer, will be the right solution satisfying the needs of those who want to travel in safety. But how comes that a private or custom tour operator may offer the same trips for the same price or even for less compared with a large operator that takes tens or hundreds of thousands of passengers yearly? Put it short: far less employees or no employees at all, no office costs, no fancy and expensive brochures, no crazy marketing spending. Have you ever wondered how much a TV commercial advertising your dream tour costs what you see while working out in a gym? Probably not but I bet you realize that you will be paying for it in the end. It is like buying your running shoes: do you buy the real quality or the brand? You could find a cheaper shoe with the same quality, but you buy the marketing and the product together what we call BRAND. When travel big you buy a brand versus private tours when you travel with friends and relatives. There are definite advantages of both ways of vacationing: you can socialize with strangers and make new friends versus being with your family or friends only; huge buffet with tons of delicious looking items to choose from versus a la carte dining and so on so forth. One way is like a precise process going through well-organized stations like in a factory versus “Oh, can we see this site instead of that one, please” moments with flexibility where it is okay to turn right instead of left. With a large tour operator, you will be part of a huge community and there will be a bond in your soul. On a private journey you will be shown more, and you will be shown sites you cannot have access to on a large group tour. What is the real value for your money then? Well, that is a question you can answer only. Custom and private expedition will be safer and cheaper in the interim period and will offer access to sites that would never (or for a while will not) be accessible to larger groups. Customized or private travel will fill the gap until the public – in the long run – will choose group excursions again. The number of these smaller tour operators offering private and customized tours with remarkably high quality will increase. I can imagine that the big brands will also be offering this type of journeys instead of large group travel until the disappearance of the virus. There is market for everyone, and the different models can co-exist and will co-exist in the future, too. The question will be the percentage that is the number of people preferring this or that way of travel in the new era. There will be companies able to adjust to the new situation and will survive while others will tumble, and some others will rise like phoenixes from the ashes. Either way we all hope that at the end of the day tourism will thrive again because it is our best educator what we are supposed to treat well.