The future of travel and tourism as per 4 sector leaders

Amy Stewart
  • In 2020 alone, the travel and tourism industry lost $4.5 trillion in GDP and 62 million jobs – the road to recovery remains long.
  • The World Economic Forum’s latest Travel & Tourism Development Index gives expert insights on how the sector will recover and grow.
  • We asked four business leaders in the sector to reflect on the state of its recovery, lessons learned from the pandemic, and the conditions that are critical for the future success of travel and tourism businesses and destinations.

The global travel and tourism sector’s post-pandemic recovery is gaining pace as the world’s pent-up desire for travel rekindles. The difference in international tourist arrivals in January 2021 and a similar period in January 2022 was as much as the growth in all of 2021. However, with $4.5 trillion in GDP and 62 million jobs lost in 2020 alone, the road to recovery remains long.

A few factors will greatly determine how the sector performs. These include travel restrictions, vaccination rates and health security, changing market dynamics and consumer preferences, and the ability of businesses and destinations to adapt. At the same time, the sector will need to prepare for future shocks.

The TTDI benchmarks and measures “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable and resilient development of the T&T sector, which in turn contributes to the development of a country”. The TTDI is a direct evolution of the long-running Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), with the change reflecting the index’s increased coverage of T&T development concepts, including sustainability and resilience impact on T&T growth and is designed to highlight the sector’s role in broader economic and social development as well as the need for T&T stakeholder collaboration to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, bolster the recovery and deal with future challenges and risks. Some of the most notable framework and methodology differences between the TTCI and TTDI include the additions of new pillars, including Non-Leisure Resources, Socioeconomic Resilience and Conditions, and T&T Demand Pressure and Impact. Please see the Technical notes and methodology. section to learn more about the index and the differences between the TTCI and TTDI.

The World Economic Forum’s latest Travel & Tourism Development Index highlights many of these aspects, including the opportunity and need to rebuild the travel and tourism sector for the better by making it more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. This will unleash its potential to drive future economic and social progress.

Within this context, we asked four business leaders in the sector to reflect on the state of its recovery, lessons learned from the pandemic, and the conditions that are critical for the future success of travel and tourism businesses and destinations.

“The way we live and work has changed because of the pandemic and the way we travel has changed as well”

Tony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International

Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the future looks bright for travel and tourism. Across the globe, people are already getting back on the road. Demand for travel is incredibly resilient and as vaccination rates have risen and restrictions eased, travel has rebounded quickly, often led by leisure.

The way many of us live and work has changed because of the pandemic and the way we travel has changed as well. New categories of travel have emerged. The rise of “bleisure” travel is one example – combining elements of business and leisure travel into a single trip. Newly flexible work arrangements, including the opportunity for many knowledge workers to work remotely, have created opportunities for extended travel, not limited by a Monday to Friday “9 to 5” workweek in the office.

To capitalize on this renewed and growing demand for new travel experiences, industry must join governments and policymakers to ensure that the right conditions are in place to welcome travellers as they prepare to get back on the road again, particularly those who cross international borders. Thus far, much of the recovery has been led by domestic and leisure travel. The incremental recovery of business and international travel, however, will be significant for the broader industry and the millions who make their livelihoods through travel and tourism.

Looking ahead to future challenges to the sector, be they public health conditions, international crises, or climate impacts, global coordination will be the essential component in tackling difficult circumstances head-on. International agreement on common – or at least compatible – standards and decision-making frameworks around global travel is key. Leveraging existing organizations and processes to achieve consensus as challenges emerge will help reduce risk and improve collaboration while keeping borders open.

“The travel and tourism sector will not be able to survive unless it adapts to the virtual market and sustainability conscience travellers”

Shinya Katanozaka, Representative Director, Chairman, ANA Holdings Inc.

At a time when people’s movements are still being restricted by the pandemic, there is a strong, renewed sense that people want to travel and that they want to go places for business and leisure.

In that respect, the biggest change has been in the very concept of “travel.”

A prime example is the rapid expansion of the market for “virtual travel.” This trend has been accelerated not only by advances in digital technologies, but also by the protracted pandemic. The travel and tourism sector will not be able to survive unless it adapts to this new market.

However, this is not as simple as a shift from “real” to “virtual.” Virtual experiences will flow back into a rediscovery of the value of real experiences. And beyond that, to a hunger for real experiences with clearer and more diverse purposes. The hope is that this meeting of virtual and actual will bring balance and synergy the industry.

The pandemic has also seen the emergence of the “sustainability-conscious” traveller, which means that the aviation industry and others are now facing the challenge of adding decarbonization to their value proposition. This trend will force a re-examination of what travel itself should look like and how sustainable practices can be incorporated and communicated. Addressing this challenge will also require stronger collaboration across the entire industry. We believe that this will play an important role in the industry’s revitalization as it recovers from the pandemic.

Mobility – the movement of people and goods – provides access to jobs, education, healthcare and trade.

The World Economic Forum’s Platform on Shaping the Future of Mobility works in four different industries: automotive, supply chain and transport, aviation travel and tourism, and aerospace and drones. The platform aims to ensure that the future of mobility is safe, clean, and inclusive for a rapidly growing global population.

  • The Forum and UNICEF developed a charter with leading shipping, airlines and logistics to support COVAX in delivering more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable communities worldwide.
  • The Forum launched the Space Sustainability Rating to ensure that space missions are managed safely and sustainably, encouraging transparency in space debris mitigation approaches.
  • The Forum and the government of Rwanda partnered to create new regulations for drones that allow drones to be manufactured and used in ways that benefit society and the economy.
  • In collaboration with the Canadian and Dutch governments, as well as industry partners, the Forum is piloting a Known Traveller Digital Identity platform to facilitate easier and secure international travel using biometrics and blockchain.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

“The tourism industry must advocate for better protection of small businesses”

Gilda Perez-Alvarado, Global CEO, JLL Hotels & Hospitality

In the next few years, I think sustainability practices will become more prevalent as travellers become both more aware and interested in what countries, destinations and regions are doing in the sustainability space. Both core environmental pieces, such as water and air, and a general approach to sustainability are going to be important.

Additionally, I think conservation becomes more important in terms of how destinations and countries explain what they are doing, as the importance of climate change and natural resources are going to be critical and become top of mind for travellers.

The second part to this is we may see more interest in outdoor events going forward because it creates that sort of natural social distancing, if you will, or that natural safety piece. Doing outdoor activities such as outdoor dining, hiking and festivals may be a more appealing alternative to overcrowded events and spaces.

A lot of lessons were learned over the last few years, but one of the biggest ones was the importance of small business. As an industry, we must protect small business better. We need to have programmes outlined that successfully help small businesses get through challenging times.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic, many small businesses shut down and may never return. Small businesses are important to the travel and tourism sector because they bring uniqueness to destinations. People don’t travel to visit the same places they could visit at home; they prefer unique experiences that are only offered by specific businesses. If you were to remove all the small businesses from a destination, it would be a very different experience.

“Data shows that the majority of travellers want to explore destinations in a more immersive and experiential way”

Steve Kaufer, Co-Founder & CEO, Tripadvisor

We’re on the verge of a travel renaissance. The pandemic might have interrupted the global travel experience, but people are slowly coming out of the bubble. Businesses need to acknowledge the continued desire to feel safe when travelling. A Tripadvisor survey revealed that three-quarters (76%) of travellers will still make destination choices based on low COVID-19 infection rates.

As such, efforts to showcase how businesses care for travellers – be it by deep cleaning their properties or making items like hand sanitizer readily available – need to be ingrained within tourism operations moving forward.

But travel will also evolve in other ways, and as an industry, we need to be prepared to think digitally, and reimagine our use of physical space.

Hotels will become dynamic meeting places for teams to bond in our new hybrid work style. Lodgings near major corporate headquarters will benefit from an influx of bookings from employees convening for longer periods. They will also make way for the “bleisure” traveller who mixes business trips with leisure. Hotels in unique locales will become feasible workspaces. Employers should prepare for their workers to tag on a few extra days to get some rest and relaxation after on-location company gatherings.

Beyond the pandemic, travellers will also want to explore the world differently, see new places and do new things. Our data reveals that the majority want to explore destinations in a more immersive and experiential way, and to feel more connected to the history and culture. While seeing the top of the Empire State building has been a typical excursion for tourists in New York city, visitors will become more drawn to intimate activities like taking a cooking class in Brooklyn with a family of pizza makers who go back generations. This will undoubtedly be a significant area of growth in the travel and tourism industry.

Governments would be smart to plan as well, and to consider an international playbook that helps prepare us for the next public health crisis, inclusive of universal vaccine passports and policies that get us through borders faster.

Understanding these key trends – the ongoing need to feel safe and the growing desire to travel differently – and planning for the next crisis will be essential for governments, destinations, and tourism businesses to succeed in the efforts to keep the world travelling.

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