Why the travel and tourism industry needs to embrace conscientious collaboration
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel and tourism industry faces an unprecedented crisis. Like any unforeseen situation, the challenge is not the circumstance itself, but how brands navigate their way out of it. The industry will re-enter into a different world from the one it left behind only a few weeks ago.
This new future will require unconventional thinking and robust solutions to bring travel and tourism back to life. It will necessitate the industry committing to a conscientious reentry plan, as well as a willingness to collaborate and choreograph efforts in order to meet market expectations.
Mapping a new mindset
Conscientiousness is crucial because this crisis has hit the psyche of all of us. An invisible virus that we have yet to fully contain has left an indelible mark in the minds of those of us contemplating traveling again. Will this virus stop people from traveling? Definitely not. But will it make us all dream, plan, and experience travel differently? Most likely, the answer is yes.
The industry has a responsibility to thoughtfully and empathetically bring customers back. That conscientiousness extends to restoring travel confidence. Not by simply luring travelers back on-board aircraft, into hotels, or to enticing destinations, but by convincing consumers that it is okay to travel and that the industry has ensured the health and safety of the traveling public as best it can. Brands must prove that their actions have mitigated any risk or concern that a bruised marketplace might be feeling.
That same conscientious quality is why travel and tourism brands must place sustainability—declared a strategic priority by many within the industry prior to this crisis—front-and-center after COVID-19. Sustainability spans the gamut of economics and social and environmental action. The travel industry has a unique opportunity to place this global imperative at the center of its recovery efforts. An industry looking to re-birth itself from ground zero would be wise to develop fit-for-purpose solutions that address the sustainability agenda in this new age of travel.
A shared sense of togetherness
Collaboration will likely also be a central theme in this recovery phase. Unprecedented times often call for unconventional solutions. Forming travel and tourism alliances amongst unlikely players might well be one such catalyst to help the industry get back on its feet.
You don’t have to look far back in time to see how international airlines—through the formation of global alliances like Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team—built partnerships in a bid to work around the challenges they faced. Constraining bilateral air service agreements and access to capital presented obstacles as the airline industry went in search of a more complete customer offering (such as a global network, FFP reciprocity, seamless airport transfers, airport lounge access), at scale and for less cost. Novel in their day, these partnerships were born out of uncontrollable headwinds and a mindset that a “rising tide will float more boats.” And they worked.
In the present day, why wouldn’t airlines, hotels, tourism boards, airports, and the like join forces to tackle this widespread challenge? There’s likely a similar expectation that they will all benefit on the other side of this recovery from the power of collaboration.
Going a step further, why couldn’t competitors within the hospitality sector work shoulder-to-shoulder to aggressively drive the industry’s response to the issue of sustainability? Imagine a hotel industry with a collective goal of eliminating single-use plastics rather than each brand making an independent move for its own competitive advantage.
Shared values and paving a path forward
The travel and tourism industry must go in search of a greater good on the next phase of its journey. Accelerating tourism recovery efforts is one thing. Doing it responsibly with an eye to building a more resilient future for global tourism is another.
A successful new world of tourism will rely heavily on restoring vital supply chains, rebooting demand, and effectively and efficiently rebuilding a more resilient world tourism industry and economy. Before anyone contemplates hitting the reset button, it might be worth considering creative means to answer these unique challenges that have beset travel.
Sometimes it pays to look at something that is very familiar to us in a whole new light in order to unlock innovative thinking and refreshingly new, positive, and ultimately impactful solutions. It’s incumbent upon all of us to shepherd a positive transformation that will reinvigorate the tourism economy, restore traveler confidence, remain focused on a sustainable future, and reignite the joy of travel.