Why tourism industry has to change
Social distancing is anathema to tourism, an industry that essentially draws people together to enjoy shared experiences.
The way forward will be dramatically different to the practices of the past, triggering changes that perhaps the industry has needed for some time.
Tourism has been closely linked to economic growth as people have become more mobile, with international travel the new norm. For a long time, we have had a growth mindset with tourism, but we should expect a more moderate approach going forward.
This provides an opportunity to do things differently as we strive for sustainability, resetting the industry and allowing us to explore new business models and devise strategies to meet changing market conditions.
Sustainability has been highlighted by the improvements we've seen in the environment as tourism has ground to a halt. Some destinations have really suffered from over tourism, such as Venice and Amsterdam where the locals are now enjoying fewer visitors. The industry may be different in these destinations moving forward.
For some time, the industry has been looking at promoting lower volume, higher value tourism to enhance the experience and this may be the fast track this concept needs.
This could conceivably create much better tourism experiences. Instead of being on a skybridge above a rainforest with 100 people, for example, you may be among only 10 people.
The problem, of course, is that this may also bring inequity to the system. For many years, international travel has become accessible to everyone, but the cost of travel in the future may be more prohibitive.
Mass international tourism is likely to remain in abeyance during this reset period. Baby boomers may be among those most reluctant to travel until the COVID-19 threat has significantly diminished.
In the meantime, the Australian tourism industry will be leaning on the domestic market in the near term. The competition for this market will be fierce.
For North Queensland, restoring aviation capacity is going to be critical as it relies more on intrastate and interstate tourists.
The Southeast Queensland market could rebound quickly because it has a larger and more affluent population within an easy drive of tourism nodes.
Like everyone, I am looking forward to a holiday as restrictions start to ease. There are those who have been on the frontline of this, particularly workers in health and education, who will need it so much more.
Once restrictions are removed, there may be an opportunity for a tourism boom that targets these workers.
Either way, there is no easy path ahead for an industry that is so important to the Australian and global economy. While the need for change has been with us for some time, it is clear that this change is now inevitable.
Dr Sarah Gardiner is a Senior Lecturer at Griffith Business School
Originally published as Why tourism industry has to change