Ah the good old days of tourism! The fondness one has for 2019 and the previous decade when tourism experienced some of the most significant increases in travel spending ever.
Who wouldn’t long for a return to pre COVID. After all the tourism industry revenues were growing with hotels sprouting and new restaurant concepts at every turn. Consumers were absorbing price increases without much complaint. Municipalities were enjoying strong transient occupancy and sales tax growth. What a time it was indeed. If only this virus could be tamed, and things could return to what was once normal.
While many in the industry would love to see a return to that time a deeper and more fundamental question needs to be considered. Should tourism in California return to normal? The COVID-19 crisis has given not just DMO’s but municipalities and residents a needed pause to consider that question and if needed consider a different future.
After a near decade of incredible growth the industry is facing a very uncertain future. Even before COVID changed the landscape the tourism industry (especially in California) was struggling to grapple with significant systematic marketplace changes. The mass tourism model that had been developed over years of careful marketing and which had come to be defined by continued growth in visitor volume and increases in travel spending had been reaching a point where destinations had begun to ask if tourism was sustainable. While many long for some level of normalcy it begs the question should tourism return to normal or perhaps COVID-19 has provided a moment to rethink the future?