We probably all know stories about hotels in the same city or adjoining destinations who would rather suffer themselves than helping their competitors, rather go hungry themselves than grant the neighbour to eat a juicy steak.
The advantages of cooperation or the game theory ideal of co-opetition have been discussed for decades. Nevertheless, for example in the north of Germany, where COTRI is located, the different provinces are spending a good part of their tourism marketing budgets in tugs-of-war, trying to snatch market share from the neighbours, who also offer beach holidays, with more energy than trying to attract new markets. A marketing cooperation organisation for all Northern provinces in Germany to work with intercontinental markets exists, but the budget of this organisation is pitifully small. I listened to speeches by marketing experts in Portugal who concentrated their energy on the question of how to avoid Chinese visitors thinking about visiting Portugal also Spain on the same trip (most do, actually). After the German reunification, the DMOs representing the former East German and the former West German part of the Harz, a hilly hiking area which was divided by the German-German border, bad-mouthed each other and avoided being unified as one organisation for almost a decade.
In the post-pandemic world, tourism will need to bury the in-fighting, if a more sustainable form of tourism, Meaningful Tourism as we call it, is to be achieved. This is not just the conviction of your humble editor, but also the core of statements of two important thought leaders of global tourism.
Pansy Ho, the remarkable Group Executive Chairman and Managing Director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, speaking in preparation of the PATA Annual Summit 2021 on April 29, has this to say:
“A competitive and resilient global tourism economy will rely not only on cooperation and improved dialogue between the private and public sectors but also on the realization of cross-sectoral partnerships that result in high-quality and sustainable tourism development.”
Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of WTFI and former S.G. of UNWTO, speaking at the Tourism Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) webinar in Durban last week connected this thought directly with the ways out of the current pandemic:
“Countries will have to work together if tourism is to recover – one country cannot insist on quarantine while its neighbour demands a vaccination passport and a third simply requires 72 hours testing before arrival or at entry points.
We do not want to turn this into a political game of those who have and those that have not. We will all lose if we do so. Fewer numbers may travel to a non-vaccinated destination and no vaccinated destination would accept receiving anyone from a non-vaccinated destination. Travel is about connecting everybody, everywhere.”
Wise words. Travellers do not care much about administrative borders, and why should they? They see destinations as units of interest if it is the region which offers Corona borealis in winter or the wine and olive growing belt in Southern Europe or all the hometowns of the famous classical composers (many Chinese tourists think that Mozart was a German and Pablo Picasso from France). Visa restrictions or closed borders, creating unnecessary problems, as recently is the case, are palpable examples of the dangers of a lack of cooperation as Pansy Ho and Taleb Rifai spelt them out.
Therefore, always an optimist, your humble editor sees a future for Meaningful Tourism and cooperation among service providers in the interest of the satisfaction of guests and hosts.
May the Force be With You!
Best wishes to all our readers, as always, from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI Weekly team.
The video version of this week editorial is also available on COTRI’s YouTube Channel.
PS As mentioned in a previous editorial, your humble editor has the pleasure to work under the leadership of Taleb Rifai as the Founding Dean of HATT Business School Institute. The official opening of HATT BSI will take place in the form of a webinar in a few weeks. Stay tuned for further news, you will hear about it from the horse’s mouth right here.