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With travel still at a halt in many countries, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, exploring new city destinations for leisure looks a way off for many. However, even though things may look bleak now, we will travel again and Asia is predicted to rebound most quickly. There are 5 key trends shaping city tourism as destinations rise to the challenge of bouncing back even stronger in 2021.
Source: Euromonitor International: Top 100 City Destinations: Beyond Adversity to Recovery Report
The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting governments to develop more inclusive and collaborative travel strategies. As countries open, extending travel routes through regional peers has become the first step to develop safe travel corridors. Regional peers who would normally consider each other as competitive destinations in terms of securing international travel are now looking for greater cross-national cooperation, not only as source markets but also to contain the spread of the virus.
The Hong Kong government is in discussions with 11 countries in order to develop travel bubbles. The recent establishment of a Singapore-China fast lane for essential business travel, which features approval from local authorities and pre-departure testing of travelers, highlights how such arrangements can be worked out for leisure travel in the months ahead.
As inbound tourism remains severely impacted for a foreseeable period, cities are re-adjusting their focus to harness the potential of domestic tourism. Many tourism boards are offering local tourists targeted discount offers as well as increasing their engagement. Tax relief is available to promote domestic tourism.
Hong Kong is encouraging residents to explore their own city through the “Hello Hong Kong – Holiday at Home” campaign, featuring over 10,000 offers across retail, hotels, restaurants, attractions and health and wellness. South Korea is encouraging domestic tourism through organized programs allowing people to travel as pairs or in small groups. These programs are for specific age groups, providing visitors with a secluded, safe and fulfilling travel experience.
Digitalisation will be at the core of the tourism sector’s recovery. Previously, digitalisation was a major part of the booking journey via online platforms, with brands looking at digital as part of innovation to stay ahead in the industry. Now, COVID-19 has made digital technologies vital. As well as offering a seamless user experience, technologies around contactless, traceability, smart and virtual experiences are critical to win back confidence and offer safer travel.
South Korean cities are well positioned as preferred destinations post-pandemic. A key message of the Korean Tourism Organisation’s digital campaign ‘Feel The Rhythm of Korea’ was ‘our hearts are always open’, waiting for a safe and healthy world. They aim to welcome visitors as soon as travel reopens.
The global shutdown in travel has offered a moment of reflection for tourism bodies and destinations to reassess their tourism offerings and strategies. The pandemic has highlighted that aspects of current tourism structures are fragile and unsustainable long-term. There is a more cohesive understanding of the impact of mass tourism and its impact on climate change. Thus, the importance of preserving ecological systems is elevating, putting sustainability at the centre of recovery.
COVID-19 has challenged the travel sector enormously and mega events such as Expo2020 and Tokyo Olympics were cancelled/postponed. These mega events are key contributors towards the economic growth of cities, with livelihoods, jobs and enterprise growth dependent on them. One of the key trends that we expect to see in cities in 2021 is recovery through resilience, with mega-events coming back by building the confidence and security in the operations of these event.
To learn more about our travel research and how travel destinations are looking to future-proof recovery after COVID-19 view our reports here: