Demand will drive the re-start of global tourism

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

“Global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74% according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Destinations worldwide welcomed 1 billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year.” That statement was released by UNWTO last week. At the same time, PATA published three scenarios for the development of tourism in the Asia-Pacific region, with even the most positive scenario seeing international tourism in 2023 with 667.03 million arrivals not yet reaching again the level of 2019 with 703.35.

One could question if 2020 has really been the “worst year on record”, remembering years like 1942, 1943 and 1944. It is also debatable if it makes sense in these times full of uncertainty to publish a number given with two decimal places, pretending a precision of forecast which does not exist.

From a virologist’s point of view all contacts between humans, and between humans and animals as well, are risky, especially when these contacts involve strangers. However, the human society and the global economy are based on such contacts, giving governments only a limited scope for restrictions. Growing up in a city which was divided by a wall for 28 years, your humble editor has a detailed experience of the necessary fall of borders, however indestructible they may appear. Neither could the Chinese Wall keep the “Barbarians” from Mongolia and Manchuria out, nor the Berlin Wall keeps the local population from breaking the cage they were in.

UNWTO and PATA both concentrate on the supply side and the interests of governments, underestimating the strong penned-up demand. All over the world, certainly in China, travellers are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to cross their national border again, not only for postponed leisure trips, but also for business, education, religion or for visiting friends and relatives abroad. Past experiences have also provided amble examples of the short memory of tourists, starting to visit again after a short pause places where terrorist acts, natural disasters or civil wars made the headlines.

More important than the question of how in the end the statistics of arrival numbers and tourism spending will look like in the coming years, however, is the fact that such measurements deny any need for change. International tourism can only successfully develop if also the level of satisfaction of both guests and hosts, of the margins achieved and of the share of such earnings providing benefits for the local economy and government as well as the mitigations of environmental damage are included into the KPIs. 

COTRI and its Associates in the ADVANTAGE: TOURISM program for Recovery and Resilience for the Chinese outbound tourism market are using such a quality-based approach. Your humble editor is proud to announce that the first European government, in the form of Turespana, has signed up for a pilot ADVANTAGE: TOURISM project, with several others in the pipeline. A better future for global tourism can only be achieved including a better future for the most numerous actors in global tourism, the Chinese travellers.

As always, best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI Weekly team!

The video version of this editorial is available on our YouTube channel.

P.S: We hope you can join the free-of-charge webinar tomorrow (Feb 3rd), which will discuss the ADVANTAGE: TOURISM approach with regard to islands as destinations for Chinese travellers. Further Information and registration is still possible on the website of Island Innovation.

COTRI Intelligence

COTRI Intelligence is the indispensable source of weekly consulting, analysis, data and news for everybody seriously interested in the post-pandemic Chinese outbound tourism market and changing Chinese consumer preferences.  COTRI Intelligence is published by COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute and edited by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS. Regional partners and Content partners [...]

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