What you need to know:
- Experts have been predicting economic recovery to pre-Covid-19 levels by 2023 but this may not be the case if a vaccine is not found in the first half of 2021.
- Besides the inconveniences of quarantines imposed by different countries, there are many other reasons that could delay a normalised travel industry.
- Climate change and nationalism, two factors that would inhibit tourism, are also on the rise.
- The sector could be in trouble beyond 2023 when experts had predicted full recovery.
A number of global news organisations opined that a new wave of Covid-19 is in the offing especially in the northern hemisphere as the region approaches winter. If this becomes a reality, then the future of the hospitality industry may be in jeopardy.
Experts have been predicting economic recovery to pre-Covid-19 levels by 2023 but this may not be the case if a vaccine is not found in the first half of 2021. There are many reasons why this scenario is possible.
Besides the inconveniences of quarantines imposed by different countries, there are many other reasons that could delay a normalised travel industry. These include intensification of digitalisation, climate change issues and the resurgence of nationalism in Western countries.
Conferencing that once was the leading contributor to tourism has gone digital. The digital conferencing platforms are getting better by the day. People are getting used to the conveniences the webinars bring. At the personal level, it has become highly productive when one is able to attend up to three different meetings without losing time in traffic jams or travel to other countries.
Virtually all museums are digitised. People can tour far flung museums without moving out of their homes with chat bots responding to different questions. Animal parks too are being digitised and once that is perfected, we shall be off to developing new revenue models different from the current systems in place.
Digitalisation does not all translate to doom and gloom. Prior to Covid-19, the World Economic Forum had estimated that between 2016 and 2025, digitalisation in aviation, travel and tourism could create up to “$305 billion of value to the industry in profitability.” It was also envisaged that digitalisation will take away “$100 billion of value from traditional players to new competitors and generate benefits valued at US$700 billion for customers and the wider society.”
Winners and losers
Either way, there was going to be a disruption with both winners and losers. In essence, you’ve got to know where the beef is or else you end up in the dustbin of losers. The beef may well be at your fingertips.
Climate change is also increasingly seeking attention. It will certainly affect the hospitality sector one way or another. It is estimated that last year fires in Australia cost the tourism industry at least $4.5 billion. Similarly, the California fire damage was estimated to be in excess of $25.4 billion. Wine tourism was affected most. This year also the fires are said to be setting a new record as they take a huge toll on human lives and property. The hospitality industry will suffer the most as people may not travel to California or from the state to other global destinations.
Floods are also causing untold damage to tourism across the world. As a result of climate change, sea levels are rising and threatening to eliminate some of the most beautiful sites like the Maldives Islands.
The current pandemic has shown that we can live in a cleaner environment if there were less pollution in cities and air space. It may not surprise if the world comes together to impose stricter environmental guidelines to make tourism completely climate-dependent.
Lastly, the rise of nationalism in Europe and the US could take the world back many years. The US, for example, is increasingly embracing a narrow ideology of nationalism and isolationism. The rest of the world could ignore this as purely an American affair but it will not be that easy given American status as an economic and military power. The country is also a hodgepodge of nationalities from virtually every part of the world, which means that different segments of American people are linked to other people in other countries by kinship, economic, religious and nationalistic ties.
Almost half, if not more of the US, still believes in the country’s post World War II internationalism that brought much wealth and respect that they may opt to fight for their faith in globalisation. The current politics is unlike the past when the opposing parties had almost similar ideological persuasion.
There is, however, a problem with nationalism. In its mobilisation strategies, nationalists unfortunately tend to associate themselves with racism, ethnic supremacy and militarism as it happened in pre-Second World War era. The last time the world witnessed this narrow-mindedness was during the rise of fascism and communism in Europe. It was ugly then and there is no reason to think that it will be different this time round. If you doubt, you just have to watch what happened in Louisville where heavily armed far right and left militia groups faced off.
Unless something is done to tone down the rhetoric, the social media propaganda and the intensification of partisan main stream media, there is a likelihood of witnessing a violent electoral process. It doesn’t matter who wins because each side already sees things differently while some are being incited by different forms of media. If the worse comes to worst in this time of crisis, it will spark another global disruption. Any such disruption could cause a global recession.
Unlike in the past when electoral losers accepted defeat graciously, in recent times both the Republicans and the Democrats have urged their candidates not to accept defeat. This will lead to unnecessary division of the world and could limit movement of people. The end result is that a stalemate could severely affect an already battered hospitality industry.
While digitalisation was going to disrupt the hospitality industry, climate change and rise in nationalism could derail the world from recovering from the pandemic. The sector could be in trouble beyond 2023 when expert had predicted full recovery.