News Restart Tourism: Let it be better afterwards than before

Author: fairunterwegs editorial office

"What are the lessons to be learned from the Corona crisis and what should be happening now so that tourism does not return to business as usual after the lifting of the lockdowns? This is the question we asked six experts*, and then we combined their thoughts with ours.

Tourism has spurred the spread of the coronavirus considerably. The corona crisis in turn has hit the tourism industry with full force. Many companies fear for their existence and are laying off employees. This particularly affects SMEs, which have not had the opportunity to build up emergency reserves, as well as employees in precarious jobs, which are all too common in the catering and hotel industry. The slump is particularly severe for tourism micro-entrepreneurs in the global South, who often lose their income, accommodation and social network simultaneously.

The fact that tourism is a volatile business is a painful experience that is made time and again. Destinations are sometimes in and sometimes out. Terrorist attacks, volcanic eruptions and extreme weather conditions have paralysed the sector in entire regions in the past. But Corona is different. The pandemic affects the entire globe and shows the vulnerability of the entire industry. The system of "fast growth through bargain prices" is in a tailspin. The vicious circle of more, faster, further, cheaper has come to a standstill - and we don't want to revert to it. 

And neither do we need to. The Corona crisis shows what works better. Booking at a travel agency brings more security and better assistance than bargain hunting on anonymous online platforms. Travel agencies now have the chance to score points with a high-quality service and to put it to good use. This also includes knowledge about sustainable products. Strong regional economic cycles, cleverly complemented by locally well-fitted tourism, are more resilient than tourist monocultures. Staying at home, having more time and exploring the neighbourhood sometimes has a better recreational effect than the ten-day tour at the other end of the world. And leads to a greater commitment to the quality of life at home, including solidarity with people around us who are struggling with more difficult living conditions. Commuting stress and business travel can be reduced through online meetings and home office. 

What needs to happen now to make these learning experiences work:

1-create breathing space - take away pressure: The pressure on tourism companies and regions to return to "business as usual" as quickly as possible is high. This can be witnessed in campaigns like "Dream now - travel later" or "The mountains are waiting - so are we". Now is the time to find instruments that take away economic pressure on companies and employees, as for example, an unconditional basic income, financed by a digital tax (also on booking platforms) or a financial transaction tax. Or why not introduce a global visitor's tax? This will give room for a new direction for this sector of the economy, which can only contribute to sustainable development through fundamental change.

2-involve the local population: More than any other industry, tourism uses public space and natural resources. This is why new strategies are needed, developed in close cooperation with hitherto insufficiently considered stakeholders (nature and heritage conservation and human rights organisations, trade unions, etc.). It is also important to clarify which tourism serves whom. What does the local population gain from tourism megaprojects such as airports and cruise ships, international hotel chains and tour operators? Where does the invested capital come from? Who earns how much? Where do the profits go and how much tax is paid where? Who pays for the social and environmental costs? Does the corona-induced bankruptcy of many SMEs lead to unhealthy monopolies?

3-develop strategies without the need for growth: There is hardly a country or destination that does not talk about "sustainable tourism". But sustainable would imply being in line with the Paris climate goals, the global development goals (Agenda 2030) and human rights. This is not compatible with permanent growth, but calls for a quality offensive: better protection of natural resources, more quality of life for the local population, more decent and secure jobs in tourism, more quality of experience for travellers - also through closer interaction with the local population - and more economic stability for the region. Previous strategies ignore the contradiction between sustainability and permanent growth.

4-implement coherently: Coherent implementation of a sustainable tourism strategy involves identifying and taking into account the carrying capacity of a destination: How many tourists can a region tolerate at most without damaging the environment, social fabric or culture? Accordingly, sustainable holiday and leisure models in the vicinity should be promoted and subsidies for forms of tourism that stand in the way of sustainable development should be reduced. In other words: no 40 million campaign by Switzerland Tourism in far-away countries (for short-term visitors who generate little added value and a lot of CO2) and no hidden and direct subsidies for low-cost air travel. Instead, invest in training for qualified consultation in travel agencies and the sustainable development of destinations. With 40 million, quite a lot could be done for this purpose. All those companies that were generously supported by the public sector during the Corona crisis should have sustainable development written into their recovery plan: Climate protection, energy efficiency, waste minimization, biodiversity, environmentally friendly mobility, fair working conditions, regional cycles, equal opportunities, etc. This applies especially to airlines and airports. They must finally internalise external costs, especially for their greenhouse gas emissions, and charge real prices including the CO2 tax.


Everyone, from the Federal Council to private individuals, is currently practising to overcome crises. People are involved in solidarity initiatives and accept restrictions in favour of the community. Researchers and companies are becoming innovative. Once we have come to terms with the corona pandemic, we can tackle the next challenges with the newly gained self-confidence of proven crisis managers: Climate emergency, smouldering conflicts due to social inequality, rapid shrinking of biodiversity - dealing with them will also be decisive for sustainable tourism.


* Nathalie Martin, slow traveling blogger; Hansruedi Müller, University of Bern; Christine Plüss, historian and former managing director of akte; Sivaraj Thekkayil, Corinne Karlaganis and Loucine Maugère of Uravu Eco Links (Kerala, India)

Concerned URL
Source Fair Unterwegs Editorial Office
Target group(s) Destinations , Businesses , Education, Research, Consultancy , NGOs, Partnerships, Networks , Governments & Administrations
Topics Cultural Heritage, Life Styles & Diversity , Good Governance & CSR