Persistent infections mean that the bifurcation of the global economy will accentuate, making the rebound ever more asymmetric. First, the largest companies will continue to do better than the small ones. Second, those sectors and industries with wind in their sails (like e-commerce and tech) will thrive, while for those already hit hard (like travel and tourism), the decimation will continue. In the coming months, this unequal situation will lead to a sharp rise in unemployment: in the OECD, 1 person in 3 is employed in a micro-firm (less than 10 employees) and two out of three in SMEs (less than 250 employees).
The global and wellness tourism industries (the GWI values the latter at $639 billion) have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The WTTC estimates that the whole industry will lose more than 120 million jobs and $3.4 trillion in revenues this year.
Many wellness tourism industry players hope that the situation will return to normal when the pandemic is over. This is wishful thinking. The implications of the necessity to be “sustainable” will rapidly evolve from a vague commitment not to make a complete mess of travel destinations to the imperative of actually improving them.
The global calls to “build back better” (the economy, our societies, industry) are amplifying, and the tourism industry, with a growing awareness of all the negative externalities it produces, will be subject to ever-greater scrutiny. Thus, some industry leaders, investors and activists are now promoting the idea of “regenerative travel,” aware that a return to the status quo is impossible.
At the core of regenerative travel is the simple idea of leaving the places we visit better than we found them. It, therefore, entails a set of measures as diverse as choosing quality over quantity; ensuring fair income distribution; and paying attention to nature, culture, human health and local communities. Some organizations and coalitions (like the Future of Tourism) and tour operators (like Intrepid Travel and Regenerative Travel) are already going in this direction. The trend can only strengthen, faster and in a more radical fashion than “traditionalists” anticipate. As one example, some advocate not “better travel,” but “less travel.” Is the future of wellness tourism local?