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The disruption of destination management during COVID-19

There has been a lot of disruption for the tourism industry because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the first lockdowns many places were struggling with over-tourism, however, the opposite is now true. Other changes within the tourism industry shows that trends emerging before have accelerated drastically as a result of the consequences of COVID-19. From this, the Next Tourism Generation Alliance can see that a lot has changed and will continue to change. The industry must adapt to how people are now behaving in the market, which means that new digital, green and socio-cultural skills will become in demand as it becomes more obvious how destination management has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Disruption for destination management

As destinations are being disrupted during this uncertain time jobs and skills are also facing fallout throughout the tourism industry. CEDEFOP have found that of tourist destinations that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic Southern European countries are more at risk than others and thus, could have more potential for economic fallout. SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) within the industry reported high demand for certain skills, however these same SMEs also reported an inability to find these skills. This means that there was a skills gap before the disruption caused by COVID-19 that has only been heightened. Therefore, it is unlikely that this supply of skills to touristic organizations will be solved quickly, and if it is not available, it could impact destination management for the future.


Positive environmental disruption for destination management

However, not all disruption during the coronavirus pandemic has been negative. As discussed previously, many tourist destinations before this disruption had issues with over-tourism, which meant that there were severe environmental implications at these locations. Now, with the current disruptions; skies are less polluted along common flight paths and wildlife has been spotted coming back to areas where it had previously gone. For example, Venice has seen an increase in wildlife as the canals are less polluted and busy during this time.


Social-economic impact of destination management

Dr. Jeroen Klijs, from Breda University of Applied Sciences has looked into the implications in the area of Noord-Brabant (The Netherlands) with the coronavirus. What value is currently added or lost, and will  this develop? Naturally, it is not surprising that the economic impact has been quite negative for the tourism industry. There has been limited local travel, and even less global travel over the last year. Although, in Noord-Brabant specifically, there have been enough local tourists to make up for the typical global ones during the summer. However, with the current measures in place it is highly unlikely that destinations will make up for losses from the rest of the year.


Dr. Klijs has also been looking at the societal impact of the tourism industry hand how this affects the Netherlands. Considering what facilities and services would be lost without the industry and how destinations within the country would be individually impacted. For example, small villages that rely on tourism as a means of income also rely on tourism to keep their shops, ATMs and bus stops open as well. Which means, that if the tourism goes then the village would suffer greatly. Although Dr. Klijs’ research does not solely focus on the coronavirus pandemic his research does highlight what would happen without tourism and recreation, which is what is being experienced with the current situation.


In an effort to ensure their survival through the coronavirus pandemic some companies are compensating customers with coupons and delays with their travels and trips instead of refunds. However, this means that the effect of COVID-19, which is already very strong, will continue for longer and eat into the profits and losses of companies for years to come. Dr. Klijs notes that “it will take time; some entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to wait for that time, and others will not. That’s the situation we’re in now.”. Showing how the economic consequences of the coronavirus will be more far reaching than just in 2020.


Looking to the future

Many companies within the tourism industry fall under the category of SME, which means that there is little money in the budget to set aside for future preparation and additional training. However, Dr. Klijs suggests that these “smaller companies could band together to collaborate and train staff jointly, as this would save money for those involved and help companies to future-proof themselves”. He also highlighted that there are other institutes in place that help to teach those in the tourism and recreation industries new skills to prepare for the future as well. Dr. Klijs also suggested that the best ways for places within the tourism industry to survive, and perhaps thrive, is to continue to be creative and willing to adapt when the opportunities arise.


Overall, the disruption cause by the coronavirus pandemic within the tourism industry is far-reaching. However, that doesn’t mean there are not ways to develop or learn from this disruption – skills and embracing change will help to future-proof individuals. If you found this blog interesting you may enjoy ‘Enjoying nature in a corona-proof way’, ‘What is the real situation regarding digitalization in German destinations?’ and ‘Future Days for Destinations’.

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