A Strategic Approach for the Global Tourism Industry to Overcome the Global Economic Crisis: A 10-Point Plan for Tourism Recovery.
By Dr David Beirman
The global economic crisis at present finds tourism vulnerable and groping for answers. Yet, as an industry, tourism has demonstrated an increasing capacity to overcome crisis events. It's a positive move that the UN World Tourism Organization is developing a confidence-boosting plan.
At the heart of this particular crisis is the concern of all tourism industry professionals that, because tourism is widely perceived as a predominantly discretionary expense, people will stop spending money on tourism in an uncertain economic environment. There is also a concern that people will spend less on tourism during uncertain times.
The restoration of confidence and preparedness to maintain the tourism business must begin at the perceptual and psychological level:
- A campaign involving all the tourism industry and media partners to enhance the concept that travel and tourism is an essential part of maintaining our wellbeing, no less than food shelter and education. Tourism and leisure should be depicted as a better investment in our well being that stocks and shares. Tourism professionals must work to make the media a major partner in talking up tourism, as was the case during PATA's 2003 Project Phoenix, the benchmark campaign to restore tourism in the Asia Pacific region after SARS. To date the media are actively spreading gloom, doom and panic. Tourism can be depicted as a positive investment because, unlike stocks, shares and superannuation, you can see, feel and experience what you get for your money. The industry should seek sponsorship from businesses such as Visa and Mastercard that benefit so greatly form the tourism dollar.
- There must be focus on value tourism product. It should be axiomatic that high priced indulgent tourism and hospitality product will experience a fall in demand so travellers will need to be convinced of value and security in tourism product.
- Destinations, hoteliers, airlines, cruise operators, land transport providers, tour operators and attractions all need to create, in concert, incentives for people to travel and NOW. Where possible rather than offer economically unsustainable discounts, attractive value added deals are the way to go and air fares combined with add on land product will offer perceived value for money.
- All businesses must focus on stressing value for their customers. This means they will have to trim any excess fat in their operating costs so they can maintain competitiveness. Rather than just fire staff, some smart deployment of staff with improved selling and marketing training may be a better solution that irreversible sackings. Negotiations between principles and buyers of bulk tourism product should be considerate of fluctuating exchange rates.
- Tourism should have a solidarity message which implies that tourism maintains jobs and the viability of communities all over the world. Opting out of tourism actually would worsen the economic outlook of the world. Travel keeps the world ticking.
- On a global level, all the major organizations that work for the industry should and must work in concert. There is no time for egos and petty rivalries in a situation in which our entire industry faces a common global threat. The leadership of hotels, travel agents, wholesalers, airlines, national tourist offices, cruise operators, land transport providers need to work together. WTTC. UNWTO, PATA, IHRA, IATA , UFTA and other worldwide industry bodies need to establish a summit and quickly.
- Governments all over the world have been bailing out banks and some of the irresponsible financial institutions which were responsible for the economic mess we managed to get into. Governments can greatly help the tourism industry in their own countries and globally by reducing a range of dubious taxes that have contributed to increasing the cost of international air travel. This is a primary goal. Think through how your local state, provincial, or national GOVERNMENT CAN BE AN INTEGRAL PARTNER IN RESTORING THE TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY AS THEY ARE IN OTHER SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY.
- Consider if you should lobby your governments to contribute to a global fund administered by the UNWTO in consultation with other major global tourism organisations that would, in concert with the media, promote tourism globally.
- Every website of tourism associations and individual tourism businesses needs to talk up tourism. An education campaign pitched at travel agents and all front-line travel professionals needs to be developed so that all industry professionals are able to talk up tourism and hospitality to their customers. The involvement of the training and education sectors is vital to both train and provide ongoing performance monitoring and market research at this critical juncture.
- In each country or region, celebrities should be solicited to talk up domestic or international tourism. We need to make people understand that globally tourism represents 8 percent of GDP and, if tourism collapses, the unemployment lines will grow longer. On a positive note travel and tourism is good for the economy and there is a key link between tourism and poverty alleviation. At every stage of this campaign the industry must maintain its commitments for a sustainable economy, society and environment all of which depend on tourism being maintained.
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Dr David Beirman is a tourism destination crisis and recovery managment specialist. He is the principal of his firm Struan & Associates based in Sydney Australia. Beirman has worked in the tourism industry for 28 years and also lectures in tourism management at three Australian universities. He is the author of 'Restoring Tourism Destinations in Crisis' (Cabi Publishing
2003) and has contributed chapters for subsequent books.