During the last decade, the tourism industry has seen many important changes that will have a significant impact on future tourist demand. Mohamed Derouiche investigates.
On the one hand, the rise of e-tourism, the democratisation of travel and the tendency to book and to make up one’s trip online rather than to buy a standard tourist package proposed by a tour operator, stood out with regard to the new traveller’s preferences.
On the other hand, natural disasters such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as well as health issues, such as avian and swine influenza, have changed our perception of holiday and leisure.
Therefore, it would be interesting to hypothesize about the future trends in travel that we can expect to see over the next decades. These can be divided into eight important trends:
New emerging inbound destinations
Eastern Europe, with many countries joining the EU, Asia and South America will play a major role as leading inbound destinations since they excite and arouse the interest of many travellers. On the other hand, North Africa is threatened with a decline if it does not innovate and diversify its tourism product.
As an example of emerging inbound destinations in Eastern Europe, we can cite Bulgaria, Croatia and Ukraine that hosted respectively in 2010 6,047 million tourists, 9,111 million tourists and 21,203 million tourists, thus marking growth rates compared to 2006 of respectively 17 per cent, 14 per cent and 12 per cent. In Asia, apart from well-known destinations, Azerbaijan (western Asia), Uzbekistan (central Asia) and Qatar (Middle East) are good examples although their numbers of inbound visitors are still low.
However, if we look at their inbound tourism growth rates between 2006 and 2010, we notice that they reached respectively 87 per cent (1,280 million visitors in 2010), 74 per cent (975 000 visitors in 2010), and 97 per cent (1,866 million visitor in 2010). In South America, Argentina that reached 5,325 million visitors in 2010 (+27 per cent compared to 2006) and Chile whose inbound in 2010 was 2,766 million visitors (+22 per cent compared to 2006) can serve as examples among others (1).
We can predict that competition between destinations is going to be fiercer in the future. Each country should therefore look for a competitive advantage that it can develop and exploit.
New emerging outbound markets
Among the biggest emerging outbound markets, we can cite here China and India with over a billion people each, many of which are starting to travel internationally. If we look, for instance, at the number of Chinese people who travelled abroad, it rose considerably between 2006 (34,524 million travellers) and 2010 (57,386 million travellers) thus marking a 66 per cent increase over the four years (2).
Indian travellers, however, reached 12,988 millions in 2010 while they did not exceed 8,34 million in 2006, which gives an increase of more than 55 per cent over the four years (2).
This implies that inbound destinations interested in those promising markets should get prepared for this large influx by:
• Improving their infrastructure, mainly road and airport infrastructures;
• Preparing communication media in relevant languages;
• Ensuring better air connections by seeking common ground with other airline companies or Tour-Operators;
• Initiating in-depth studies on tourists’ travel needs from those markets.
Green tourism, also known as nature-based tourism or sustainable tourism, is in great demand and will continue its growth in the future since many travellers are now aware of the negative impact tourism might have on the environment and have, therefore, become more responsible with regard to sustainability.
Climate change and alternative future transport
When thinking of the warming of the planet, the erratic weather patterns and the natural disasters that will likely occur and are occurring already, we can describe global climate change as one of the worst disasters to hit the humanity.
Furthermore, destinations should expect climate change to have an impact on tourists’ purchasing trends. We will gradually see new means of transport gaining ground to the detriment of air traffic: Will tourists be willing to fly across the ocean if they consider the carbon footprint of their flights?
Travellers may opt for journeys made by train, boat or coaches especially that these modes are nowadays offering more comfort, great web accessibility and timetables suitability. In addition, shorter trips within the same continent or the same geographical region will more likely outweigh the long ones.
Travel with a mission
Another important future trend is travels that incorporate an added-value rather than just a classic lazy sun and see vacation: Many travellers are nowadays looking for real travel experiences that enrich their culture and let them live and feel the authenticity. Furthermore, they seek out travels that involve volunteering (e.g. providing support to a population in need, humanitarian actions, etc.) or that include a particular mission, for instance, learning a new language, exploring new culinary techniques, attending a seminar, a concert or an event, etc.
As a result, tour operators are now becoming specialists rather than generalists: Some are positioned as experts in golf vacations while others are specialized in cultural tours and so on.
Social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between organisations, communities and individuals.
The last decade has witnessed an unprecedented rise of social media in many different forms: Collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs and micro-blogs (e.g. twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), etc.
Businesses currently refer to social media as consumer-generated media since they are relatively inexpensive and accessible to anyone compared to industrial or traditional media. In the US, for example, social networking now accounts for 22 per cent of all time spent online (3).
However, if destinations or tourism authorities decide to use these online platforms to make promotions or to bring updates, it is crucial that they understand how to deal with social media to become effective influencers and thus cleverly pass the desired message to public. Furthermore, organisations should always bear in mind that people are nowadays resistant to marketing in general and especially to direct social marketing and hence they should find better tricks to be socially powerful. Some studies (4) came up to these organisations with two important suggestions: Either to establish themselves as “experts” in a particular field or area, thereby become influencers in that particular field or area, or try to gain trust and credibility as most people prefer to learn from other people like them who share their experiences rather than from marketers.
Safety and security
Tourism is very different from what it was prior to the notable terrorist and criminal attacks the world has recently witnessed. Modern tourism is a multifaceted and complex industry involving many stakeholders. Safety and security need, therefore, to be priorities for any tourism destination.
Furthermore, policies and practices that protect both tourists and locals, and also that address how a crisis should be managed if the need arises are an essential component of tourism development.
To reach the safety goal, governments should work on the implementation of an action plan that may include the following:
• Devoting special and sufficient budgets for safety issues: There is a common perception, especially in developing countries, that governments want tourists to receive extraordinary services within the confines of ordinary budgets. As a result, law enforcement agencies generally suffer from a lack of funding, manpower shortages and low-morale staff due in part to low pay and lack of resources.
• Involving all stakeholders in crime prevention programmes (e.g. hoteliers, airline companies, the local population, transportation agencies, restaurants, bars, taxi drivers, etc.) since safety is everyone’s responsibility. This can be achieved through a better coordination between stakeholders as well as through appropriate planning and awareness campaigns.
• Security professional tourism training: Security professionals, who work in tourism areas, need to be sensitive to the special needs of the transient person. In fact, they need to know how to reduce crimes’ probability and how to comfort the tourist if he/she is a victim of a crime.
• Property inspections with minimal safety standard: it is often easier to prevent a crime than to deal with it post facto.
In brief, as today’s tourists seek places that are safe and secure, countries should continue to get heavily involved in developing policies that protect their population and visitors from perceived unsafe situations.
The success of the tourism and hospitality sector is based on the continually evolving challenge of “selling the intangible”. Thus, the human factor is of an increased importance. If we look, for instance, at destinations and companies selling tourism services, they are struggling to differentiate themselves beyond just the physical product. In other words, it is the human element that creates their competitive advantage and what makes or breaks a tourism experience.
Nevertheless, due to the large human resource needs of the tourism industry, there is often a lack of qualified employees available to the industry. Destinations that want to consolidate their positions in the future world travel market should then work hard on upgrading their workforce. This can be achieved by:
• Developing a sustainable workforce, either through education and training of their own workforce, or through migration policies.
• Implementing appropriate educational policies for all tourism organisations (hotels, amusement parks, restaurants, bars, etc.). These policies should be designed and developed by relevant tourism entities within the government and not by other entities, as in some instances, educational policies are set by the ministry of education!
• Creating human resource councils that address the needs of the tourism sector at a local, regional or national level and aiming at reducing the gap between what is offered and what is needed, and focusing on quality control and related issues.
This analysis clearly highlights that destinations seeking to maintain or strengthen their position in the future world of travel should start working on a long-term action plan comprising a set of strategies that comply with these eight trends. In any case, the above study deserves a deep reflexion as it might spark other ideas and create interesting debates.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TTG MENA.
(1): UNWTO Factbook -Compendium of Tourism Statistics – Basic data and indicators – Series 1.2: inbound tourism – Arrivals of non-resident overnight visitors (tourists) at national borders.
(2): UNWTO Factbook -Compendium of Tourism Statistics – Basic data and indicators – Series 3.2: Outbound tourism – Departures of overnight visitors (tourists).
(3): blog.nielsen.com , June 2010
(4): The European Journal of Social Psychology, July 2006’s article and also Edelman Trust Barometer reports (2008’s and 2010’s reports).