Are we still a force for good?
In writing this newsletter, our goals at Bannikin are: tracking travel-related news throughout the pandemic, providing a service to our community, and staying attuned to the evolving conversation around tourism as the industry navigates the devastating effects of COVID-19.
Eight weeks in, and after following developments from initial global closures to the first tentative reopenings, we’ve noticed a rising sense of urgency in the international tourism sector, with brands shifting from a “we’ll be here when you’re ready” position in favour of active, sales-motivated messaging.
In previous newsletters, we voiced unease over the potential for tourism brands and destinations to overlook the threats and uncertainties of COVID-19 in the interest of meeting consumer demand and economic survival. With lockdown protests in the U.S. and regions reopening against the advice of health experts, it’s hard to dismiss the rallying calls for “returns to normal.” Given that business is all about supply and demand, what does that mean for an industry that carries people from one corner of the globe to another, in a world being ruled by a deadly, contagious virus? What does that mean for an industry that prides itself on trust and expertise, yet is also often influenced by geopolitics?
A recent article in Tourism Geographies cautioned that, “As the pandemic wanes, the world will be poorer and more divided, which is not a recipe for a strong rebound in the tourism economy let alone a coordinated, strategic effort to transform it toward sustainability.” It also warned that despite the opportunity being presented to the tourism industry to embrace more sustainable forms of operation and address overtourism, “for many destinations and governments, especially those with authoritarian tendencies, the focus on tourism will be business-as-usual.”
In short, despite an altruistic identity based on being a force for good, tourism is an industry first and foremost. So even in the face of a pandemic, business-as-usual inherently means putting profits before people.
Restrictions began lifting in a significant way around the world last week, and, in our daily news trawling, we have witnessed a cluster of responses within the tourism landscape to be swift and single-minded — even as reopened destinations are facing setbacks. We’ve seen Carnival roll out plans to be back in business by August 1, mere days after the Center for Disease Control’s no sail order’s July 24 expiry date (consequently, bookings increased by 600% following the announcement). Disney is reopening in July, and Air Canada Vacations is “kick starting” again in June, embracing consumers’ “desire to travel.” Often missing in these conversations is the implications for the health of hospitality workers or the communities that will be forced to welcome international visitors from countries still battling the impacts of COVID-19.
More and more brands are latching onto the societal reverence of frontline workers by way of free trips, flights and contests — a practice referred to on Twitter as #COVIDwashing, a misstep already experienced by other industries.
The desperation for a restart is everywhere, and we get it — financial insecurity is real. But the need for health and safety is also very real, and considering experts believe we’re nowhere near being out of the woods, the decisions being made by some of the most influential brands in our industry should have tourism professionals wondering if and how we can reconcile the power of business interests and economics with our view of travel as a force for good.
Below is our weekly roundup of news, expert insights and food for thought…. If you can’t access an article due to a paywall, let us know and we may be able to send it through to you.
Stay safe and healthy,
Your friends at Bannikin
The week at a glance
Tuesday, May 12
- EU may reopen borders between countries with same virus risk levels
- Vietnam races ahead of other southeast Asian countries in tourism reopening
- Disney World accepting hotel reservations for July
- This is how Portugal is planning to safely open hotels and restaurants
- Air New Zealand is boosting domestic flights as lockdown eases
- WTTC unveils “Safe Travels” – new global protocols to restart the Travel & Tourism sector
- Spain orders two-week quarantine for incoming travellers from Friday
- China proposes fast-track entry for Japanese business travelers
- Some Caribbean islands begin phased openings of businesses
Monday, May 11
- Struggling Cathay Pacific hints at further job losses with pilots now in the firing line
- EasyJet and Heathrow want early exit from UK quarantine rules
- Wuhan reports first new coronavirus cases since end of lockdown
- Shanghai Disneyland reopens with anti-virus precautions
Sunday, May 10
- Britain to quarantine foreign travelers, part of a plan to slowly, cautiously ‘unlock the lockdown’
- Uncertainty about borders puts travel companies off balance
- Some cruise lines plan to resume sailing as early as this summer, but will passengers get on board?
- The airline business is terrible. It will probably get even worse.
- Turkey sets out virus precautions, prepares for tourism comeback
- Latin America’s Avianca Airline files for bankruptcy
Friday, May 8
- Why flying is about to get a lot more expensive — for good
- Young people are keen to fly again, says [Wizz Air] boss
- The First Sign of Travel’s Return?
Thursday, May 7
- Smartphone data shows out-of-state visitors flocked to Georgia as restaurants and other businesses reopened
- Shanghai Disneyland sells out its reopening day
- Colorado could stop tourism marketing as budget writers look to slash $3 billion in spending
- Air Canada Vacations returning in June
- Out-of-work elephants in Thailand’s tourism sector return home to wait out crisis
- Masks become mandatory for long distance bus travel on Greyhound
Wednesday, May 6
- What Americans are thinking about flying
- Baltic states to create ‘travel bubble’ as pandemic curbs eased
- Poll: 48% of Americans would rather not fly until pandemic ends
- Germany eases lockdown, with ’emergency brake’ on hand if needed
- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. successfully secures more than $2 billion of additional liquidity
- Global Airline Group among those making plea to help African tourism
- Lost summer for Princess, Holland America and Seabourn
- AmaWaterways pushes season opening to August
- High-end luxury travel projects forge ahead
Tuesday, May 5
- Vacation rentals still restricted as Florida begins to reopen
- IATA opposes mandatory blocking of middle seats
- Carnival plans to sail again, or does it? Behind the confusion and controversy
- Virgin Atlantic to axe more than 3,000 jobs in battle for survival
- Egyptian hotels reopen only to domestic travelers and with strict conditions
- NCL, Oceania, RSSC parent company NCLH hints at bankruptcy
- Airbnb cuts 25 percent of workforce and downsizes hotel investments
What the media is saying…
New York Times – The future of travel
Snippet: To learn how the landscape might change, we talked to dozens of experts, from academics to tour operators to airport architects. Across the board, they highlighted issues of privacy and cleanliness and the push-pull of people wanting to see the world while also wanting to stay safe. Here, answers to 14 of the most pressing questions about travel’s future.
CTV News – New normal: Rear-facing seats could be the future of air travel
Snippet: A germ-phobic public will be wary of closed-in and crowded spaces – literally the definition of an airplane. That’s not to mention the economic toll of lost jobs and battered revenues on discretionary household and business budgets. Only adding to the woes: a dramatic uptick in virtual meetings and remote work, and the success of the so-called flight-shaming movement that was already making some think twice about the carbon impact of flying.
Skift – Who will come last in global travel’s staged recovery?
Snippet: In a way, the success of such a strategy is dependent on the core competency of a given government — can they actually do what they say they will do? — as well as the strength of their diplomatic ties with allies and neighbors. And if this crisis has showed the world anything, is that some of the world’s so-called superpowers aren’t as competent as we thought they were.
Condé Nast Traveler – These Countries Are Opening Back Up—And Cautiously Preparing for Domestic Travel
Snippet: The way we travel might look nothing like what we’re used to, but those we spoke to in Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Rome, Milan, Ho Chi Minh, and beyond say that the moods in their cities are largely optimistic, and ready to move forward, uncertain as the future remains.
What experts are saying…
Tourism Geographies – Pandemics, transformations and tourism: be careful what you wish for
Snippet: While some destinations will undoubtedly reconsider the nature of their tourism industry and focus more on local and more sustainable forms of tourism, without substantial institutional and governmental interventions, which are currently overwhelmed with saving lives and creating conditions to restart domestic economies and education systems, the juggernaut that is international tourism will roll on… For many destinations and governments, especially those with authoritarian tendencies, the focus on tourism will be business-as-usual.
Women in Travel – For tourism to thrive post-COVID-19, start by putting women at its center
Snippet: Placing women at the heart of travel and tourism in the post-COVID-19 world will be necessary not only to reflect the ongoing changes occurring in our society, but also to secure the future of an industry for which this global pandemic now represents a watershed moment.
The Marketing Insider – Careless brand messaging during pandemic could have long-term effects
Snippet: The lesson here is simple: While it may seem we’re living in a strange parallel universe — one that will ultimately give way to something more familiar — the impressions brands make today will not disappear. What consumers see of and feel about brands now may well be imprinted more deeply into their psyches; in the midst of the chaos, almost nine in 10 are predicting that they will care.