Returning the world to the good old days before the pandemic is not possible, especially for global tourism. Quality, satisfaction and benefits for all stakeholders should become guidelines for the development of tourism in the 2020s.

The world has been developing economically at an ever-increasing rate over the last 30 years without the parallel growth of the political institutions that govern globalization – the result is a climate catastrophe, the rise of despotism and the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Global tourism spending is even outpacing global GDP growth, but no regulatory body has emerged to define and impose restrictions on the acquisition of public goods such as beaches and urban centers to care for the “export capacity” of nature and host countries. communities or to fight the two elephants in the room of the tourism industry: seasonality and non-standard working conditions.

In 2018 and 2019, a debate entitled “super-tourism” has already developed as a result of growing resistance from host communities. During the pandemic, there were many discussions about the need for “new” tourism, from adhering to the goals of sustainable development and about the need for tourists to finally start behaving more sustainably and responsibly.

With the resumption of international tourism in recent weeks, not much of all this debate seems to be left. Return tickets from Hamburg to Palma de Mallorca are offered for less than € 50, Barcelona citizens complain that Las Ramblas is more crowded than ever with tourists, even cruise ships have started throwing 5,000 short-term visitors to unhappy cities again and islands.

It helps little to give teaching teams to tourists to put the interests of the host communities and the environment before their own interests. It also does not help to speculate on what percentage increase in prices the customer would agree to pay for a “greener” travel product if customers are not offered more than a better awareness of their extra dough.

In almost all of the many recently published studies and strategic documents on the development of tourism after a pandemic, elephants in the room continue to be ignored: the universal approach to many destinations, leading to clear levels of seasonality and staff shortages.


The markets for tourist sources and the requirements and interests of the market segments are more segmented than ever, with travelers looking for experience and immersion.

The need for relaxation is no longer the main goal of recreational tourism. Travelers increasingly belong to age cohorts over the age of 50 and increasingly have non-Western cultural backgrounds.

It helps little to give teaching teams to tourists to put the interests of the host communities and the environment before their own interests.

Wolfgang Georg Alrt

The car factories produce with the help of artificial intelligence and robotic vehicles, each with a different configuration according to the customer’s wishes. Dell started offering custom computers decades ago. In tourism, the decision of the Vancouver Tourist Board to become a “social enterprise created to ensure that travel is a force for good”, called 4VI, can still be considered an avant-garde move. The insight of the President of the Greek Tourism Confederation SETE that “happy residents bring happy tourists” is still opposed in many destinations by all-inclusive seaside resorts, which hinder all contacts with the wider destination. Even the leaders of 4VI and SETE still talk about the need to “balance” the interests of guests and hosts as if they were enemies, instead of supporting ways to equalize them and other stakeholders in a situation that benefits all. .

Having a huge number of customers who buy the same product is mostly in the interest of tour operators. Airlines, hotels and restaurants don’t mind why travelers fly to and stay in a destination. Attractions, mobility companies and retailers will even prefer a greater variety of visitors.

For most tour operators, “niche” remains a dirty word, but for the rest of the industry, it will become, under the guise of “special interest” and “international market for sources”, the answer to the question of how to kill the elephant of seasonality. The use of the whole part of the country and all seasons of the year for tourist offers is possible almost anywhere and anytime, if it is based on identifying the right global market segment and the right product adaptation, which in many cases will involve local people.

Tour operators are losing importance in the tourism industry thanks to more and more experienced and individual travelers with the Internet. In a recent study, only 7% of Chinese travelers, for example, identified travel in tourist groups as their preference.

The tourism industry will have to catch up with other industries to become part of this Pine & Gilmore described it 20 years ago as the “Economics of Experience”. Sustainable tourism, responsible tourism and recreational tourism will be necessary elements of this development in 2020, but they will not be enough.

“Meaningful tourism”

Enter “meaningful tourism” – a paradigm based on a return to quality, satisfaction and benefits for all stakeholders, namely guests, host communities, service providers, companies, government and the environment, with quality and satisfaction, measured by the stakeholders themselves.

Guests who are provided with exactly what they want and even a little of what they didn’t know they want will become product ambassadors offering free referral marketing instead of expensive and increasingly effective social media marketing.

Host communities will see the benefits of receiving visitors who are interesting to communicate with, and employees will appreciate better pay and year-round work with the opportunity to feel like hosts, not servants. Companies will be able to ask for higher prices for supposedly better quality, will be able to use their resources all year round and will be able to retain and train their staff. Governments will receive more taxes and will be able to use tourism as a tool for regional development.

With a sense of belonging in the sense of a kinship economy, one can expect both guests and hosts to pay more attention to the natural environment.

Placing signs “Verboten!” and flygskam campaigns will not change the behavior of most tourists. Doing something good for the environment will not convince customers to pay significantly more for the same service. Travel is a human right, not a privilege, so pricing and taxing the lower half of the market is also not an option.

Distinctive benefits are needed to complete the Meaningful Tourism approach as a key element in changing the attitudes and perceptions of all stakeholders. The discussion of the “economy of experience” has moved beyond stage experiences to collaborative creative experiences and further to transformative experiences. There is still a long way to go for the global tourism industry.

About the author…

Wolfgang Georg Arlt is the CEO of COTRI (Institute for Outbound Tourism Research in China) and director of the Center for Significant Tourism.

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