2020 has brought a tremendous shock to the travel industry; from the massive bush fires in Australia to the continuing spread of the COVID-19 which has now effectively halted global travel. However, it is easy to see the big problems and easy to forget the things that have been slowly happening; the past decade has seen the rise of technology in easing bookings and a global connectedness of the world by ever more and ever cheaper flights. Furthermore, we have seen the rise of the Chinese middle-class traveler as well as the changing tastes of the international community.
2020 will be no doubt marked by COVID-19 but more importantly what is going to happen in the next ten years?
Nomadica interviewed tourism industry experts Yael Farjun from China Click Go, Janson So from Hong Kong Ocean Park, Marko Ljupkovic from Round the World, Mark Ternouth from Kapula camp and Kaingu lodge as well as Tuya from Nomadica - Impact Discovery.
The first question on everyone’s mind is what kind of effect will the current virus epidemic have on the travel industry?
- “This year, due to the outbreak of the COVID -19 virus, the Chinese economy, including the tourism industry has now affected almost every part of the globe. Almost all Asian countries’ tourism sectors are currently suffering revenue losses as result of slow movement of tourist. International tourism projected by UNWTO of 1.4 Billion in 2020 could grind to a halt, dragging down global growth with it” Janson -
- “There are more than 70% arrangements that have been canceled by foreign tourists, from China, Japan, South Korea, and Europe; so, the season has been destroyed this year, summer season, corporate season, everything”. “We should be more flexible, and even more connected between each other, sharing experience between each other. This is a time that we could make a superb plan and work together on packages and learn from this situation” Marko –
- “Bookings have of course been decimated but the positive thing I have noted as a small operator is that interest in tours has not been completely destroyed. People are still interested in coming to Mongolia, they want to learn more and plan ahead but understandably are not prepared to make a booking until the situation changes. This is also true of other organizations in the industry, everyone hasn’t suddenly shut up shop; companies are trying to talk to each other and are planning co-operations and exciting ventures” Tuya -
- For lots of the smaller lodges in Africa, which is the majority, this will be a case of just surviving if possible until travel hopefully returns later in the year but it is likely that their peak seasons over the northern hemisphere summer holidays (June through September)are likely to be affected. The impact on the people employed is huge as there are no social safety nets to catch the unemployed and support them through this crisis. Everyone is going to have to work together to survive this. Mark -
These are certainly scary times but I guess it is important to remember from where we have come; how much progress has the travel industry made up until this point?
- “Tourism has grown virtually uninterrupted over the past decades in the Asia Pacific Region and is becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world” Janson -
- “More open borders and easier sharing of information between countries, are just a few of the reasons why people are traveling more and probably will travel in even greater numbers in the future. But the nature of travel is changing too. We hear more about individuals traveling on their own, off the beaten path, instead of group-traveling as before; we hear of more countries that open their doors to travelers and even making it their primary source of income” Yael -
- “The movement of bookings from offline agents to online agents has been massive. Just imagine! Ten years ago the blackberry was a thing and social media was a fun, quirky thing. Now technology has been harnessed more and more for the development of business and its effect on the travel industry has been massive” Tuya –
So is it likely that the tourism sector will bounce back from COVID-19?
- “Asia tourism’s strong momentum is expected to continue in 2020 at a rate of 2 to 3 percent, and in 2021 pick up 4 to 5 percent. This year, I guess the growth rate is below the 3.8 percent average increase projected for the period 2010 - 2020 (1.4 Billion) by UNWTO. I still believe by 2030, the world’s total international tourist arrivals for Asia Pacific are expected to reach 1.8 billion as projected by UNWTO” Janson –
- “Did you know that only 7% of the world’s population has ever been on a plane? I love this fact as in my opinion, it shows more than anything the potential in growth for the travel industry” Yael –
- I think and hope that everyone, after being kept in lockdown in their own countries will be looking to explore whether it is locally, regionally or internationally and certainly a recent survey I saw for China recently supported this. The one factor we don’t know is how much this slowdown will affect peoples’ budgets to travel and therefore the destinations available to them. Mark -
Great news for travelers and industry specialists alike but what will the next decade look like for a traveler, where are the hot spots and what will the trends be?
- I believe East Asia will still be the best performer in the Asia region, because the countries have strong safety and health conditions, world-class infrastructure, convenient transportation and a great balancing offer to leverage on their natural and cultural resources. South-East Asia and South Asia will grow faster than East Asia and Central Asian countries such as Mongolia and Uzbekistan will rise in popularity due to robust demand from western source markets. Janson -
- The characteristics of the “new traveler” are of someone who is seeking more of the authentic experience, a closer connection with the culture and local people at a destination and someone who might have been considered more of the “adventurous” type before. But what does it mean, connecting with local culture? How will it affect a destination? How does it affect the traveler? Yael -
- I do agree that we are going online, which is good, which is making our process faster than ever. However, we should not forget that travel is emotion, we still need to have our own travel agent, with experience, who can give advice, online or offline. It’s important to have a person of trust. Marko –
- I think that whilst the staples of travelling such as beach resorts, city getaways and cruises will continue to develop, I also think the next decade will see the emergence of ‘new’ types of travelling such as cultural travel, gastronomy travel and impact travel. Travel is experience and for seasoned travelers putting themselves through similar experiences is meaningless; people search for more meaning from travel. This I think will be great for a lot of small tour operators who don’t want to function as cattle herders but bring a true personal meaning to what they are doing. Tuya –
- I think we will see, as more people have travelled widely they are going to be looking for “experience” type holidays which allow them to see places and explore an interest or passion when they are there (cooking, photography , history etc) or just to explore more out of the way places and connect with people that they meet on those travels. It is these unique genuine experiences that the smaller and specialist tour operators will be able to provide as they will have the local knowledge and relationships in place to discover these hidden gems for the overseas traveler. I think once people start scratching below the surface of a place they will be amazed at what they will find! Travel is so much more than just seeing and taking pictures of a place. Mark -
Any wishes for the future of travel?
- I hope that traveling, in the future, will help promote more tolerance to other ideas and cultures, will open our minds and eyes to all the beautiful things in the world, even if they are different than ours and what we’ve known. Yael -
- I do hope that education and traveling become more closely aligned. They say that you can’t know a country well enough unless you live there for six months or longer; what if that could be shortened? We have so much knowledge, technology and resources at hand that educating tourists should not only be possible but also a tool for world change. They also say that travelling opens your eyes, if enough of us do open our eyes, maybe we can learn something that will truly impact the world-Tuya
- I hope that as someone who comes from Africa that Africa will be able to harness the potential there is for travel to Africa as a destination and that it is done responsibly so as to benefit the country as a whole as it has the potential to be such a positive catalyst for change. As a continent we need to show all the sides of Africa, there is much more to Africa than just a safari! Travel will, I hope through experiencing a place and meeting people go a long way to making people understand each other, get rid of preconceptions of peoples or places provided by the media and make everyone a lot wiser and more tolerant of each other. At the end of the day I genuinely believe most people are good people and if you make the effort, the experiences you will have will leave you with lasting positive memories but if you don’t spend long enough in a place you will never find out! Mark -