How did Covid-19 impact tourism activities? Has the tourism sector proved resilient enough to respond to the new challenges? Did the tourists struggle to adapt to the new situation and rules?
The recent Covid-19 health crisis has caused major difficulties in the tourism sector, where the decline in performance and numbers have been accompanied by a strong need to reshape and redesign the offer of tourism services by the professionals. Interested by the impacts of the pandemic, in particular on the 2020 summer season, the partners of ECHO-Tourism conducted in June a survey for tourism professionals and tourists in France, Italy, Greece and Croatia, aimed at identifying if both professionals and tourists responded with resilience, innovation or on the contrary, with resignation, or discouragement to the challenges of this period.
We started with the assumption that sustainable tourism could represent a new opportunity for tourist services, and maybe the most appropriate response to the needs of an offer of services in line with the new rules (social distancing, outdoor activities etc.), by respecting people but above all…places! More and more, especially in this historical time, tourists show a sensitivity to environmental issues and a certain “return to nature” which is manifested in their consumption choices, in their orientation towards visiting nature reserves, parks or small rural villages, preferably in the neighbouring areas, in order to limit long journeys and the use of collective transports: planes, buses, etc. From a pre-COVID research conducted by ECHO-Tourism’s consortium, about half of the interviewed tourists rarely seemed interested in eco-sustainable good practices, stays and/or services. There is a new awareness now.
This year, tourists have shown a greater attention to the quality of the places, their appearance, and their hygiene above all. This required an immediate reaction and capacity by the tourism professionals in ensuring the remodelling of the services, in compliance with the anti-covid restrictions and the hygienic-sanitary rules. Globally, the adaptation to the anti-covid norms, has, on one hand, favoured the resurgence of sustainable tourism, it has, on the other hand represented a heavy economic weight for tourism professionals. The latter renounced to international tourists, and tried to meet the choices and consumption models of mainly local tourists, as well as incur unexpected and urgent costs, which resulted in the closure of many of the tourist activities.
To conclude, the recent pandemic has opened up new scenarios for sustainable tourism, revitalizing local economies and small tourist service providers. At the same time, it has shown how the tourism sector needs to be ever-changing and remodelling, in order to be resilient and innovative enough to respond not only to new market conditions, including competitiveness, but also to overcome unexpected events.
Sustainable tourism has once again proved to be the appropriate answer for an inclusive social-economic wellbeing for every stakeholder!
If you are interested to know more about sustainable tourism, we invite you to follow our Echo-Tourism project and discover soon playful and interesting tools aiming to help operators and tourists to adopt new consumption choices that respect the environment, the local territories and their actors.