The start of the new decade is a good time to take a deep breath and reflect upon the many changes and challenges that have occurred in the last decade has seen both political and economic turmoil in both Europe and Asia. Political changes have occurred throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Many nations have had to deal with failing economies. Other nations, such as the United States, have enjoyed unprecedented economic gains. Energy has also played a part. The US is now the world’s largest energy producer. Furthermore, with pressure on fossil fuels scientists are seeking new forms of renewable and non-polluting forms of energy. The shifting energy market not only impacts the economic and political world, but also the world of tourism. During the last decade the global tourism industry has had to become not only more energy efficient but also faced the problem of “over tourism.” That is that locations around the world attracted more visitors than their environment could handle. The results were not only anti-tourism demonstrations but also a rethinking on the part of the industry so that it would provide economic benefits while at the same time not harming the local culture or environment.
At the start of the last decade few “experts” imagined the economic earthquakes that would shake much of the world’s economies. Even fewer tourism specialists predicted that the US stock market would rise dramatically, and that the high-tech industry would produce a new class of millionaires and billionaires. No one considered how these changes would impact the century’s third decade.
From major tourism centers to small towns, the travel and tourism industry is only now beginning to awaken to the many new challenges that it will have to face as some areas of the world rise rapidly and others begin the constrict. These economic changes are signs that all of us are now in a global economy, that the old rules of tourism might not be valid in this new world. During this new decade it appears that in the world, no industry, nation, or economy will be an island unto itself. Tourism to a great extent is in the forefront of these economic changes and challenges. How the travel and tourism industry will adapt to these new economic and environment shifts will impact the world’s economy for decades to come. To help you determine your own strategy Tourism & More presents the following ideas and possible future trends.
Understand that we no longer live in a one-country world
No matter in which nation you may be living, the local market will not be enough to sustain your growth. Even small towns will find it necessary to become part of the global market. That means that local banks will be necessary as places to change currency, restaurants will need to offer menus in various languages, traffic and road signs will need to be internationalized and police departments will have to learn how to deal with a myriad of cultures and languages.
Think in both the micro and the macro
For example, as fuel prices continue to fluctuate, ask yourself how these changes will impact your part of the tourism industry. During less costly periods use the reprieve to develop alternative forms of transportation. If your locale is dependent upon air transportation or cruise visitation, how will energy issues impact your community? Communities that are totally dependent on self-driven means of transportation may have much greater difficulties in attracting visitors in the next few decades. Creative thinking will be necessary as not every community can produce an instant public transportation system. Think small as well as big. All too often tourism industries suffer because they spend so much time on catching the big fish that they lose the small ones. When economically challenging times occur, there are less “big fish” to catch. For example, instead of only seeking a large convention, also consider smaller conventions. The basic principle is some profit is better than no profit.
Look at all forms of economic trends
Because tourism is big business composed of many small businesses, it is essential for tourism professionals to integrate macro trends into their business plan. For example, how will new car sales impact your tourism industry? What happens if a crisis is only the first of two or three waves of crises, how will aging populations in developed countries impact tourism? What environmental factors such as “red tides” can change the nature of your product? Which nations have expanding economies and where are the economies contracting? All these are essential questions that must be updated on a regular basis.
Learn to watch trends and then incorporate them into your business model
Travel and tourism, for the most part, are expendable products. That means that it behooves travel and tourism professionals to watch cost of credit, to understand how the foreign exchange markets work, and where unemployment is headed in your major markets. In today’s interconnected world, news sources are essential. The last decade witnessed a great deal of public skepticism regarding the accuracy of the media. Do not base your analysis on any one media outlet. Read and view media from all points of the political spectrum.
What was or has always been may not be the same in the future. For example, if your tourism industry or business traditionally drew from place X and that locale is expected to go through a major economic turndown, be prepared to switch markets or products rapidly. Every tourism community should now have an economic watchdog committee that analyzes the current situation and makes recommendations on how to adapt to a rapidly changing world. The less assets that you need to care for, such as buildings, vehicles etc., the better off you may be especially in a restricting world economy.
Look at successful models around the world
All too often tourism officials have a highly parochial view of their industry. Seek out and communicate with colleagues from different parts of the world and look at their best practices. Where have they succeeded and failed? Think how you may be able to adapt or modify other people’s ideas so that they meet the needs of your local situation. Ask yourself some essential questions such as, is my business model flexible enough to withstand rapid changes? How stable is my current supply chain? For example, if you are a hotel and the blanket factory goes bankrupt are there other sources available? If you are a locale based around a single attraction what happens if that attraction closes? Then ask yourself, do you know are your business partners and how you can work with them to face an ever more challenging world.
Adapt your marketing efforts to a globalized industry
Tourism and travel professionals may need to consider major overhauls of their world-market advertising. Magazine and local television ads may need to be replaced with innovative web strategies, monolingual website may become a thing of the past, and new direct marketing procedures will become essential. Remember that in an interconnected world, you are no longer just compared with your neighbors. No matter where you are located you community and/or business will be judged on an international scale. Think through what makes you unique and what is special about your community or business.
The author, Dr. Peter Tarlow, is leading the SaferTourism program by eTN Corporation. Dr. Tarlow has been working for over 2 decades with hotels, tourism-oriented cities and countries, and both public and private security officers and police in the field of tourism security. Dr. Tarlow is a world-renowned expert in the field of tourism security and safety. For more information, visit safertourism.com.