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Article
april 30, 2020
Trends in post-COVID-19 tourism

The consequences of the pandemic for the tourism sector point to a paradigm shift. The first post-COVID-19 tourism trends: nature as retirement, transportation safety and the environment are values on the rise. Will we travel looking for health?

The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has completely blocked the international tourism market, not only because of the limitations of movement and use of facilities decreed by the different states and governments, but also due to the fear of contagion and the precaution of the users, who cancel their plans due to the gravity and unusualness of the situation.

All this entails significant economic losses. Airlines, hotel chains and all businesses linked to tourism are suffering serious consequences. The sector will be reactivated, predictably, at different times and at different rates in different destinations in the world: some of the most established destinations, as soon as they provide sufficient evidence of their safety against contagion, will be attractive again to tourists from other countries.

But in the short term, airlines will not be able to offer discounts or offers, quite the contrary: it is expected that they may have to increase the price of tickets, and low-cost flights will not be the first to reactivate. As a consequence, luxury tourism is likely to revive long before mass tourism.
In the meantime, the interest of the users has not diminished, but quite the opposite: the desire to go on vacation is more present than ever, but it is limited by the feeling of danger. It is, therefore, a stagnant market, but not a declining one; a market that, as it gains the trust of users again, will experience a sudden activation that may exceed, in some tourist destinations, the pre-crisis turnover.

The return to normality will not occur at the moment when the risk of contagion has disappeared (due to the availability of effective vaccines or drugs on a large scale or due to the fact that great group immunity has been achieved), but at the moment in which the public regain their confidence in the offers of the tourist market. Trust is a subjective factor and responds to impulses and emotions, rather than scientific arguments.

It will be, in any case, a new normality, in which many things will have changed forever: tourists will appreciate more and will look for some aspects and values of the tourism product related to the security, control, privacy and exclusivity of accommodation, open spaces, climate, materials, ecology and sustainability. The massification will take years to return to tourist destinations.

Social distancing will have conflicting effects, which can only be anticipated as a hypothesis, but which we must take into account in any future promotion strategy:
- The need or trend to stay away from large urban agglomerations;
- Fear or rejection of overcrowding;
- The need to be in contact with nature, in the middle of natural spaces far from civilization;
- The preference for ecotourism and the interest in protecting the environment (air and water quality, protection of local fauna and flora, etc.);
- The need to spend time in open spaces, the desire to do more outdoor activities;
- The search for certain types of weather considered beneficial for health;
- The need to get together with family and friends to make up the time of forced separation: family / private parties;
- The preference for certified destinations from various points of view: hygiene, security, access control, etc.;
- The preference for individual means of transport;
- An approach to travel in smaller or controlled groups (families or users who know each other) seeking a “retreat” in exclusive spaces, with limited / controlled access;
- The "basic" values such as nature and the authenticity of local vernacular architecture are values on the rise, while conventional hotels will be soon obsolete and must reinvent themselves betting on sustainability. Tourists may value camping sites (but without overcrowding) more than city hotels.

At the moment, it’s hard to estimate the economic impact of the crisis in the tourism sector, but data from previous crises, some of them related to health issues, indicate that the tourism industry is very resilient: we can expect fast recoveries and very fast adaptation of some destinations to the new market demands. One thing is certain: the new destinations will have to be designed according to these requirements, prioritizing "basic values" such as country tourism - ecotourism and contact with nature.

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