Since the pandemic started, global consumers have amassed $5.4 trillion in excess savings (an estimate equivalent to 6% of global GDP, mostly detained by the wealthier households in high-income countries). As economies open up, demand will surge, releasing some of these excess savings, and just one-third of the total could be enough to boost global output by two percentage points this year and in 2022.
What will this do for tourism in general and wellness tourism in particular? It seems that the mass travel tourism market is coming under greater scrutiny, or even denounced, in many (if not most) high-income economies and emerging markets as well. For example, Southern European countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy) are using part of the €750 billion EU recovery fund to progressively switch from mass to premium and more wellness-focused forms of tourism.
In New Zealand, the minister of tourism recently declared: “We cannot go back to the tourism model that existed prior to COVID-19,” while the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said that the country had had “enough of mass tourism.” Such statements are being made all over the world. Therefore, the direction of travel seems clear: The future tourism model will be more sustainable but also more unequal. Mass tourism will be frowned upon and discouraged. High-end and wellness-intensive luxury travel will be encouraged (it generates more employment and higher tourist expenditures), in conjunction with a substantial expansion of “softer” and harder to monetize forms of wellness tourism.
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Given how many people are employed in Thailand’s mass tourism sector it’s hard to imagine that they can make such a transition