I have been privileged to be able to travel to over 50 destinations around the world. It has been an honour to have visited so many great places, met so many fine professionals and enjoyed the shared experiences.
We must now find ways to support and help each other. Each and every one of us is affected by the current crisis. The travel and tourism sectors have been devastated in a very short time period – over tourism to no tourism in a week. Politicians, civil servants, investors, banks and tourism professionals are now collaborating as never before to see us through the short-term crisis, then to help survival and to beginning to map the roads to recovery.
Applying the sentiments from Sound Diplomacy (www.sounddiplomacy.com) it is clear that, as a global community, we have the skills and resources to innovate, create and find the solutions for the future and to adapt everything we do for a totally new environment.
Over the first three months of 2020 the world changed for ever. There will be no such thing as ‘business as usual’. Thinking the unthinkable is with us now. The crisis has severely exposed that what we have been doing was not working. Maybe we should have read the signs: climate change and its evident consequences (flooding and wildfires); over-tourism and community disquiet; and, increasing concerns about personal and societal health.
It is now time to re-set the buttons, re-balance the equation. It is time to collectively contribute to a new vision of the world especially in travel and tourism so long regarded as a basic human right. I am reminded by Professor Geraint John (the only Briton to receive the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for Services to the Olympic Movement) that, in the UK, the Education Act 1944 was a vision for the development of young people post-war but, importantly, it was a vision created during wartime. A long-term view is essential.
So, what is our vision for the future of tourism? A future that seeks to protect our natural resources, respects the interests of our communities and cultures, and creates wonderful opportunities for our children and grandchildren. Hard questions must be asked – and answered.
The 2018 Barcelona Declaration, ‘Better Places to Live, Better Places to Visit’ set out strong principles that are hugely relevant going forward (www.necstour.eu). In the words of James Connolly (1868 – 1916), a man of formidable ideas and a remarkable vision, which appear on the walls of the eponymous visitor centre in Belfast (www.arsuichonghaile.com):
“We believe in revolution in exceptional times. These are exceptional times.” (December 1915).
In 2019 Stevens & Associates identified and published a new paradigm for tourism. We believe that this is now key to our thinking about the future of tourism. It states:
Recognition – recognising the importance of tourism to the destination and the rural / urban economy and communities.
Relationships – the building of relationships (vertical and horizontal integration) ensuring a shared vision and strategy for tourism based upon common trust and common values.
Relevance – of products, experiences and the destination to the interests and needs of emerging markets and the host communities.
Responsibility – the development of a resilient, sustainable, empathetic, sensitive and responsible approach to tourism development respecting the assets of the destination, its environment, socio-cultural interests of the tourists and capacity of the host community.
Respect – for the interests and wellbeing of all parties including the host community, business community and visitors to the destination.
Terry is author of the publication – Wish you were here. The book gives insights as to the success of 50 of the world’s great destinations. It is hoped these books will stimulate fresh thinking for all those involved in tourism and especially destination development.