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Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Look forward to a better travel industry full of real opportunities

COVID 19 is a point of massive change and extraordinary opportunity for tourism

The last big economic crisis in 2008/9 ruined all the hard-won successes of sustainable tourism. The accountants, the venture capitalists, the marginal costers, the web-based spin merchants, Wall Street saw to that. To see how that worked read my book.

In terms of numbers, after 2008 they soared. In terms of benefits for those that needed and were entitled to them - destination communities, this mass tourism just added insult to injury

So now we have another, bigger crisis on our hands.

Already airlines can't pay for their planes that they bought on the expectation of massive passenger and load factor growth.

And the big producers are just on the point of paying for customers to take their oil because storage is running out.

And the biggest of them all TUI has had to get a €2 billion loan from KfW - the German development bank.

But on the bright side - the Planet is having a holiday from all the excesses we have laid on it. The economy and human activity has slowed as we painfully learn to work together.

And… prime assets are cheap.

All this and we are only a few months into a problem that will last for years

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel - an industry that is truly sustainable - by this I mean economically sustainable, culturally sustainable, socially sustainable and environmentally sustainable.

That means dramatically less air and cruise tourists, fewer tourists in iconic destinations, less imported food in all destinations, proper carrying capacity restrictions.

Plus above all, tourists who respect and feel gratitude for the fact that they can travel.

And this could lead to higher, more sustainable profits, better service, far better benefits for destinations. In all a really healthy global tourism industry with real opportunities for millions of real people.

I've been in the travel industry too long to believe that any industry initiative could possibly make this happen.

So what will?

Simply market pressure. As soon as people REALLY get the message that a healthy world, and a healthy tourism economy is good for them as individuals - their attitude will change. And tourism will obey the market - as ever.

The fact is that COVID 19 is a game changer. Surely, we realise that this is also a massive warning to every one of us individually?

And you may think that the travel and tourism industry has stopped. But it hasn't. The real powers in tourism are rising, working, recognising the opportunity and flexing their muscles.

The World Bank (remember the people that created our geography of global tourism from Mexico to Bali?) is laying the path with its tourism clients around the world for a sustainable 2021 and clever destination managers all over the globe have seen the writing on the wall and got the message: SERIOUSLY PREPARE FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM.

Of course, there is a COVID 19 price to pay. There will certainly be airline failures and industry consolidation. There will certainly be hundreds of thousands of travel and tourism industry bankruptcies. There will be lots and lots of cheap assets - particularly properties and companies big and small who extended themselves far too far when the fabulous river of cash dried up.

Is this new era of 'Responsible Capitalism' forged by COVID 19 going to bring in an era of responsible sustainable tourism? Probably not. But certainly, the opportunity exists and there will be no choice if the fickle marketplace gets the message!

Valere Tjolle

Valere is the author of 'You Lucky People' the story of travel - the world's most delightful and devastating industry. Find out more about it HERE

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