The "new normal" of tourism

08 of June 2020
Mauren esquivel

One of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic has been tourism. The World Tourism Organization (OMT) estimated a drop of 22% in the first quarter of the year internationally; and various scenarios are contemplated according to how quickly the borders can be opened and international visits can be reactivated. The 3 scenarios They are, a 58% drop in international tourist arrivals if there is a relaxation of travel restrictions in early July; scenario 2 with a drop of 70% if travel restrictions are relaxed in September, and scenario 3 with a drop of 78% if they occur in December. On the air transport side, it is estimated that, at the end of the year, a fall in passenger air traffic of between 44% and 80% according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

This negative trend affects an industry that in Costa Rica directly contributes 6.3% of GDP; in Mexico 8.7%, Honduras 8%, El Salvador 5.1%, Nicaragua 5%, Guatemala 5.9%; Peru 3.9%. This economic impact is linked to the performance of activities such as accommodation, transportation, medical care, recreational and artistic activities, vehicle rental, air transportation, food and beverages, mainly. That means millions of people without jobs, for an industry that is practically at a standstill.

And it is that according to the report "COVID-19: Travel Restrictions, A Review for Global Tourism" published on May 29, also by the UNWTO, it is found that 100% of tourist destinations worldwide have some kind of restriction for tourism. From the complete or partial closure of the borders for tourists, which applies to 85% of the destinations; complete or partial suspension of international flights; border closures according to the country of origin; and only 12 destinations (5%) currently have protocols for accepting tourists.

These 12 countries are Belarus, Ethiopia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Bhutan, Korea, Bangladesh, Kiribati, South Sudan, and Tanzania; and from June they will be incorporated Iceland, tracksuit, and PortugalWhereas Spain is planning to open in July for the European tourist. The protocols and measures for tourists in these countries range from quarantine periods upon arrival, to get tested for COVID-19, or to arrive with medical certificates that validate that they are not a carrier of the coronavirus. It is expected that as countries control the contagion and spread of the virus, the economy will open up, including tourist activities.

However, and as has been constantly mentioned, until you have a COVID-19 vaccine or a really effective treatment, we will have to live with the coronavirus and adapt our behavior to the "New normal" with the aim of having the spread of the disease under some control. And of course, this "new normal" will apply in the tourism sector, significantly changing the way we travel, or enjoy vacations.

Tourism in a world with COVID-19 will change the decisions we make about where to travel, tourists are expected to choose places where they are not at risk of being infected by the virus, in fact the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is already working in a seal of "safe trips" so that companies can show tourists that they comply with the appropriate protocols to take care of their health.

Before leaving, it will be important to investigate all the protocols in the country to visit and know the requirements that must be met, from the mandatory use of masks, to having to pay for a COVID-19 test upon arrival in the destination country, some countries like Iceland They have even run free trial promotions for two weeks.

At airports they are being implemented protocols social distancing and hygiene measures, also promoting an intensive use of technology to avoid physical interaction between people as much as possible. In this topic of technology use, it is recommended to do online check-in, contactless immigration procedures, and electronic payment mechanisms. The objective is to guarantee the health and safety of travelers and workers, minimizing negative impacts on efficiency and operation.

In hotels, distance and hygiene measures will have to be part of the operating model; there is already countries y international organizations that are publishing their protocols and are in the process of training companies in the sector. These protocols of course include more intensive hygiene methods such as the use of ultraviolet light, or new disinfection technologies such as electrostatic sprinklers. Taking the temperature when entering closed places. The disappearance of buffets or coffee stations. Creation of positions as "the hygiene and protocols manager". Promote new products based on room service or reserving outdoor spaces, such as reserving time in the pool. In addition to having rooms ready in case you need to quarantine someone.

In the rest of the tourist activities, the principles of hygiene and social distance will also be the conditions to be followed. Decreasing the tour sizes, disappearing mass tourism; limiting activities in closed places, prohibiting activities with groups of people, promoting the use of masks in tourist attractions and theme parks, and limiting occupancy in restaurants and bars. Even in the beaches It is necessary to change the traditional behavior, since measures are being taken to limit the number of people who can access, it seeks to put distance between the umbrellas, between the families who sunbathe, or with the lifeguard; in addition to including signage to show occupancy levels, and wearing a mask or face shields.

The success of these measures will depend on applying the protocols with extreme discipline in all the links of the tourism value chain; but also in knowing how to communicate them to visitors. Of course, technology will be key to comply with the new measures, both for testing, and for communicating, paying, booking, and even for keep checking to COVID-19. But clearly tourism is different when there is a pandemic; The different measures and protocols seek to generate trust, and guarantee that the act of traveling is safe, without putting travelers, workers and residents at risk, respecting health regulations, but activating an industry on which millions of people depend. But only countries and destinations that can truly build trust and confidence will be able to attract tourists.