Travelling is like dreaming: the difference is that not everyone, when waking up, remembers something, while everyone keeps warm the memory of the destination from which he returned. So wrote Edgar Allan Poe when the journey was still a dream to be lived as soon as possible in the collective imagination.
Travelling has always been synonymous with freedom and discovery of the outside world but also of the inside.
Nowadays, the lightness and light-heartedness with which one thought of merely leaving home have been replaced by the feeling of fear and uncertainty.
The Coronavirus is generating day after day, an exponential crisis that in addition to affecting the health sector, has also overwhelmed the tourism industry, having enormous impacts that will change this sector for a long time.
The most disarming aspect is that at the moment, it is still complicated to imagine when we will be able to start travelling again and how we will change the way we go.
For the current COVID-19 crisis, there are no rules, and for this reason, it is not possible to give the right answer to these questions because the reality is constantly changing.
Moreover, the global scale of this coronavirus pandemic makes it continuously expanding.
In a recent article by the World Economic Forum, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) considered that this pandemic could generate 50 million jobs worldwide in the tourism and travel sector and identified Asia as the country that should be most affected.
The magnitude of the impact, however, must be remembered that it will depend primarily on the duration of the epidemic in the world because of the conditions for the spread of the virus were to worsen further, and the containment measures were to be tightened, the consequences would be even more severe.
"The equivalent of a loss of three months of global travel in 2020 could lead to a corresponding reduction in jobs of between 12% and 14%," the WTTC also said.
But an important point to remember is that people will continue to want to travel, and this drive is likely to be even stronger after these restrictions. The only real and fundamental constraint will be fear for one's health and that of others. And this thought leads us to understand that people will undoubtedly be much more cautious; they will need to understand but also to see in a tangible way what will be done for their safety. Both transport companies and accommodation facilities will need to rethink their travel and accommodation policies in a substantial and above all credible way.
When the recovery from this crisis is achieved, it will be important that all tourism operators in the sector share some practical principles that can help the entire tourism industry.
This "new normality" will have to include changes of all kinds, from hygiene measures and practices to new travel arrangements. Some concrete examples could be:
- when making reservations, both for travel and accommodation, there could be more flexible and exemptions for cancellation or re-booking;
- air flights could be rethought in passenger numbers to avoid overcrowding, as well as for trains and coaches;
- to bring tourists closer to the cruise world so severely damaged, they could become cheaper, and the companies building them could reconfigure the design of the cruise ships currently under construction to have larger cabins and reorganise the common areas by increasing the distance between people;
- to be able to transmit safety and control of the healthiness of tourist places and means of transport, the way of monitoring and cleaning the environments with which tourists will interact and also clear and correct communication will have to be changed;
- business travel could be encouraged to stimulate the recovery of airlines;
- besides, there will be an incredible opportunity to solve in a serious, scientific and at this point inevitable way all the issues related to sustainable travel in respect of the environment.
This last point allows addressing the concept of overturism, which is a term that has been coined to describe the exact moment when tourism, instead of bringing positive effects, generates extremely adverse effects wherever it occurs in the world. Overturism can be related to the concept of overcrowding, people or means. I believe that nowadays, it is entirely pointless to point out how overcrowding can lead to devastating consequences for both human health and the environment.
Sustainability is about human beings acting in a balanced way in the context in which they live and move. Consequently, even his "momentary" action as a tourist brings with it a sometimes indelible imprint of his passage. A single man will, therefore, be a bearer of change and all the more so will an entire community.
Since the tourism industry will have as a priority objective to regain its position and its business, it will undoubtedly have to face the recovery with a collective and shared approach among the countries of the world so that it can be mutually coordinated and advantageous with a thank you from the entire natural ecosystem if it is done with the right mix between economy and sustainability.