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The current crisis brought the global economy to a halt. However, certain industries are slowly starting to wake up; as is the case for every sector, many of those who employed by those affected sectors dream of a return to the world we knew prior to the pandemic, including the same crowds, the same cheap airfare, the same travellers who came from afar to crowd into the places we call home, and the same visitors crammed into restaurants and museums.
However, should we not take into consideration the lessons of the current crisis? Indeed, the crisis has taught us that travel should be infinitely more regulated to avoid the spread of pandemics in the long term, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and avoid harming the protection of our heritage and natural areas. For example, it would be reasonable to no longer see any more social housing near the sea in the Venice lagoon, or millions of tourists on Thai beaches.
Coming to Europe from Asia or the Americas will therefore become more difficult.
It is true that tourism, as it is practised today, is not the main factor contributing to global warming, but it is one of them; it is not the main factor in destroying nature, but it is one of them; it is not the main factor in the spread of pandemics, but it is one of them; it is not the main factor leading to a decrease in biodiversity, but it is one of them.
And if we do not admit it, all that we will have gained by applying a more reasonable behaviour during the pandemic will be lost if we return to the old ways.
We must have the courage to admit it: old-fashioned tourism is dead. This is the truth even if many people will refuse to admit it for a long time to come.
Many countries and many companies in the tourism sector have begun to understand this. And behaviours will change:
Some will assume that tourism is reserved for the richest people, who will be able to pay full price for plane tickets, and afford the limited (and therefore, expensive) number of hotel rooms offered by countries or cities that want to protect their assets and reserve it for the rich. Others, more democratic, will set up systems of lottery and quotas to define the number of people who can visit each year. Bhutan seems to have chosen the first strategy. In France, the Louvre museum will choose the second; this will eventually have an impact on the growth of the number of foreign tourists in Paris and even in France.
All in all, if it does not change, tourism will, in the future, be mostly for the most fortunate: either by money or fate.
Lastly, others will understand that the future of the tourism industry no longer lies in the growth of the number of visitors, massive and anonymous, which is how it was conceived until now, but rather in the considerable improvement of its impact on the environment and nature; and its extension to other business sectors related to particular aspects of tourism, which certain cities and firms have always practised: hospitality; in other words, around everything involving welcoming, attention, empathy, and helping the well-being of those we welcome.
Hospitality is not just about natural gifts; it requires very specific skills, which are needed in many fields other than tourism: for example, company headquarters and hospitals would have much to gain from using these skills. Companies could find ways to keep their employees, who are increasingly distanced with each other because they are working remotely: the quality of the welcome at the workplace will play an important role in the loyalty to a company. Hospitals could also better continue to improve their hospitality aspect by making even greater use than some actually do of specific hospitality skills, both for patients and nursing staff and for accompanying families.
The tourism industry will find new, exciting, profitable and socially useful markets there.