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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Post Covid-19: what history can teach the travel industry



Trump is no Truman says Valere Tjolle

I don't know much about what happened after the First World War - obviously I wasn't there. So all I know is gained from my travels and the history books. However, it seems clear that the post-war 'peace agreements' were so brutal, one-sided and nationalistic that the Second World War happened just 21 years later.

I do know quite a lot about what happened after the Second World War. The beginning of my book You Lucky People about the travel industry and me is devoted to it.

And, under US President Truman, The Marshall Plan had lent $12 billion (in today's money over $100bn) to European countries to heal their economies and their cities.

The United Nations had been formed to help the whole world follow a path to peace and prosperity through open discussions and agreement. The NATO alliance was formed,

The Chicago Convention offered open skies to aid the world airline industry and world trade through the UN. And in the UK, Labour Prime Minister Clem Atlee introduced the free National Health Service.

The European Coal and Steel Community (the precursor to the European Union) was formed.

Luckily it was a time of open hearts and big, sophisticated plans, communication and cooperation after the horrors brought down upon all our families by nationalism.

In the aftermath of Covid-19, when it comes, we will certainly have a post-war situation. By then the cost will have been enormous - possibly more than in 1945. And there will be no public construction works available - just massive debts to pay.

Whatever, the world will have changed. Permanently. And you will have an opportunity if you work in the travel and tourism industry.

But, unfortunately the UN is not in a position to help and the US has a less open-hearted regime - Trump is certainly not Truman.

Moreover, if we are saved from a recurrence of Covid-19, afterwards we will still have another massive, war-like challenge to face - at most, in another 30 years, the untreated effects of climate change will be causing global mass devastation.

The net effect of the pandemic will almost certainly be austerity. Much higher taxes for everybody, which opens the door to the sort of policies that caused the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic and the anger that led to war.

There will be no doubt that politicians of all shades will shun the truth, and to save their own skins will play the blame game - blame China, blame the UN, blame the WHO, blame individuals - all ultimately leading to the destruction of truth, tighter controls and restricted human rights.

Moreover the global poorest in every country will have paid, in their hunger, in their lack of care, in their poverty, in their deaths. Naturally this will sow millions of seeds of disharmony now and in future generations.

Strangely enough, this could be an opportunity for global tourism, just as it was in 1945. It will be an opportunity for those who control the industry. But also, maybe for you if you are one of the 400 million or so people who work in the global travel industry. And you ask not 'how can we save our jobs' but 'how can we, and our communities, truly, sustainably benefit from this situation and gain advantages for us and for our future generations?'.

In this way we could use the awful situation for truly massive positive advantage.

Plus make a lot of money by dealing direct and taking the 30% + that intermediaries have been pocketing.

Here are a few ideas:

  • For tourist guides and want-to-be tourist guides: Get in a group, create itineraries and stories, create a joint website, link with other local tourism people. Promote for all you are worth!
  • For DMCs: Create and market your own unique itineraries and offers with your own group of local cooperators
  • For accommodation providers: Engage with local tourism businesses and create your own branded products, itineraries and informed local suggestions
  • For tourist attractions: Engage with all the above, use them to extend your experience with 'local happenings'
  • For local tour operators and bus companies: Engage with all the above - become your own DMC and market your offers globally
  • For bicycle hirers: Create and market your own routes with accommodation and meals, events and sightseeing
  • For outbound tour operators and travel agents: Choose your own destination offers and either create or engage with all the bunch above and choose the best of the best!

The entire global tourism industry may be poised to transform - very much in your favour. The world could soon become your (highly profitable) oyster.

Valere Tjolle

Valere is CEO of Best of Romagna and 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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