In the short term, destinations must manage COVID -19 for both current AND future visitors. At the same time, many destinations have experienced a burst of visitation, much of it from pent up demand and those visitors that have a higher tolerance for risk in traveling. A large part of the market is risk-averse and watching to see how destinations are managing COVID-19, including social distancing, masking, hygiene, etc. The sentiment to travel has not budged much among this segment.
Additionally, tourism promotion organizations that primarily have interacted directly with the tourism industry will now have to adapt to include angry residents and local government in plans and strategies. Tourism is reliant on the good-will and support of residents; a concept called the social exchange; as such, their support is critical for tourism development and operations.
All of this speaks to the need to manage better tourism, including the visitor experience, the integration of sustainability thinking.
There are, of course, some big unknowns, including how air travel will change and what happens to group travel. Will they return to pre-pandemic experiences, or will legacy behaviors impact them as a result of the pandemic?
The future will favor destinations that are adaptable, quick to make decisions, and offer leadership in a significantly changed environment. Don’t look back; look forward to the opportunity ahead.