Tourism Turnaround!

16 August 2022

After two years of restrictions and limitations, 2022 has seen the return of the Summer holiday! We examine what implications this boost in tourism might have for employment in the sector…

The 23rd September 2019 is a date that will go down in history for anyone involved in the travel and tourism sector.

The Covid pandemic was as yet unheard of and face-mask free, easy travel was just a few clicks away.

However, despite these supposedly prosperous conditions, the industry was rocked by the compulsory liquidation of global holiday provider Thomas Cook Group plc.

The collapse of the group that September triggered the biggest peacetime repatriation in the United Kingdom’s history - with 150,000 tourists stranded abroad - and led to 21,000 employees losing their jobs worldwide.

Of course, the next two years and the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic had a devastating impact on the industry with multiple companies – both small and large – ceasing trading and thousands of people becoming unemployed.

Fast-forward to today and the travel sector, as well as the wider world, is in a period of recovery.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation’s Tourism Barometer report, international tourism has seen a 182% year-on-year increase in the first quarter of 2022 with 177 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in Q1 2021.

Not only this, but the recovery seems to be gathering pace – of the extra 76 million international arrivals, over 60% were recorded in March.

Commercial Manager for the popular travel comparison site Kayak.com Sarah Davies, sees a clear upturn in demand.

"Searches for Summer travel on the site have surpassed pre-pandemic levels," she said.

"With travel rebound well underway we're seeing an increasing trend for visitors searching for the best possible deals - whether that's by plane, car or train."

As the below table shows, travel figures are starting to approach their 2019 levels, with Europe and the Americas coming closest to the “normal” barometer of pre-Covid levels.

Whether the above points to a recovery that still has a way to go, or an industry realignment that was merely accelerated by the pandemic is open to debate. However, what seems clear is that people’s desire to return to a “normality” after the past two years is driving a certain level of growth.

Indeed, travel and tourism companies have engaged with this desire in their marketing and promotion, celebrating the world opening-up again and aligning the prospects of their businesses with the wishes and desires of their customers.

For a particularly emotive example, see Greek airline AEGEAN’s Welcome back to travel campaign advert below:

Regardless of whether 2022’s surge in demand is the tip of the iceberg or only a stepping-stone along the road, it is clear tourism providers were not fully prepared to cope with it.

To take the airline industry as perhaps the most newsworthy example, Forbes reported last year that over 400,000 airline workers were lost to either redundancy or people leaving the industry.

A rise in demand coupled with staff shortages does not tend to end well, and this has been seen in some of the airport chaos that has affected Europe in particular this Summer.

However, wherever a problem arises, a solution is required…

A sector that must not just recover, but rather evolve to meet new customer expectations, requires a new type of workforce to help drive it forward.

As this researchgate.net paper explores, the disruption of the past two years can perhaps be framed as the breakpoint between “old tourism” and what must now emerge as the new face of the industry.

It seems the pandemic did not simply frustrate people’s desire to travel, it gave them pause to consider the impact of their tourism activities on our planet.

This is seen in the major new tourism trends emerging, with experts listing the growth of eco-tourism and consumers’ desire to make more sustainable choices as the key factors likely to impact the industry in the forthcoming years.

Where travel comparison websites such as Kayak used to purely focus on offering customers the best value deals, they are increasingly presenting greener travel choices.

 

While by no means a perfect solution, this at least allows users to factor environmental considerations into their travel decisions.

It seems like this trend will only gather momentum as businesses recognise the necessity of being seen as 'pro-planet' to remain attractive to consumers.

As a hospitality school training the workers who will drive the changing face of the industry, IMI keeps a strong focus on these trends and ensures our students’ education balances the lessons of the past with the demands of the future.

With units that focus on Sustainable Tourism Planning and Destination Management, our Bachelor’s Degree in International Hotel and Tourism Management is the perfect preparation for students who wish to enter the industry full of fresh ideas and innovation.

Our alumni are already playing their part in shaking up the sector, and we can’t wait to see what our cohorts of the future go on to achieve!

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