Last month, Dr. Peter Tarlow explored some of the challenges that lie ahead for the world of tourism in 2015. Among the issues that we looked at were the question of security, health, issues of policing a few of the economic issues facing the world of tourism and customer service challenges. This month’s article exams some of the other issues that may impact the world of tourism during 2015. It also looks at the evolving and ever-worsening terror situation in Europe.
Tourism officials, like it or not, are going to have to confront Europe’s unravelling. The recent terrorist attacks in France along with major police raids in Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, and the United Kingdom combined with the Euro zone’s ever increasing economic problems will present tourism’s leadership with new challenges. It would be a major mistake for tourism’s leadership that mere rallies will solve what is an endemic problem within Europe. The potential for spill over into the American and African nations is ever present. Attacks on key tourism centres such as airports, train stations and major attractions may have a profound impact on tourism. Europe’s economic problems may result not only in fewer Europeans being able to afford to take vacations outside of their region, but its deflation may hurt tourism on a world wide basis.
Here are some of the other 2015 issues about which tourism and travel leaders need to be aware:
Visas may become a hot issue. There was a time when Europe was not seen as a terrorist threat. As Europe’s demographics have changed, so have opinions regarding visas. If visa restrictions become the norm, the tourism industry will face a threat around the world that it long thought was a thing of the past.
Airlines have become the business that travellers love to hate. With the merger of airlines around the world tourism leaders can expect higher costs and a continual downgrading of services. Not only have airline costs continued to rise, but also there are fewer flights to fewer places. Both Europe and the US suffer from airline personnel who simply do not seem to care. The cost of an airline ticket is now merely an approximation as the ticket only buys the most basic of services and then passenger is asked to pay for additional fees for almost everything else. The cost of airline travel is perhaps less of a challenge to the tourism industry than is the lack of comfort, and hassles that travellers are forced to endure. Few airports around the world can handle super-sized aircraft that can bring well over 300 people to an airport at one time. These larger aircraft mean higher probabilities of lost luggage, great lines by which to pass through a nation’s customs and immigration procedures and higher levels of traveller frustration and anger.
Pay attention to alternative transportation modes. Due to problems in the airline industry an eve-increasing number of travellers are seeking alternative forms of transportation. Expect to see more people travelling by car, rail, and if the cruise industry can control on board illness and publicity disasters, then higher usage of sea transportation. These transportation changes will have beneficial effects on small communities’ tourism products. Rural tourism may greatly benefit from these changes. In order to benefit however, small towns and rural areas will need to think through their tourism product. Issues as to what to do at night or what to do during inclement weather must be addressed. These communities will also need to create regional rather than local tourism products. On the other hand, those tourism locations that are airplane dependents will need to create hospitality centres that compensate for the hassle of airline travel.
The travel and tourism industry will continue to see a wide demographic spread and determine how it will cater to these different demographic groupings. The baby boom generation (people born between 1946-1959) is now hitting retirement age. These people will have the leisure time to travel, tend to deal poorly with hassles and are prone to seek alternatives to what they consider to be unnecessary or unfair travel difficulties. Both in Europe and in the US this age group may look to alternatives means of transportation, such as road trips and rail. Furthermore, many of these people have children who are living far from where they live and may use travel as means to connect with grandchildren rather than merely to explore. At the other end of the spectrum, is the now growing youth travel. These are people who seek economy over comfort and look for adventure rather than five star luxury. The growth of this market will be especially important for places offering adventure tourism.
New opportunities for alternative or niche travel experiences are everywhere. Many legacy destinations will have to compete with new travel experiences. A new generation will seek combination tourism in which it can mix business with pleasure, short-term vacations, that embrace long weekends, and boutique tourism experiences that are out of the ordinary. Many of the legacy destinations will suffer from the “been-there-done-that” syndrome and will have to offer more conveniences or tourism opportunities if they are to keep their status as premier destinations. Some of the new and fast growing markets are the religious tourism market, the farm-vacation market, the history seeking market, and the travel and food market. The key to niche marketing is to find something unique about a specific community, brand it and publicize to the demographic that may fit into the niche. For example, educational tourism should continue to be an important tourism product both on cruise ships and at places with educational centres whose faculty is willing to become part of the leisure industry.
Business travellers will expect more from hotels and transportation companies. Business travellers around the world expect free internet and wi-fi services. Many business travellers now use some form of tablet rather than a laptop computer. These people need access to free printing via the Internet, flexible check-in and check-out times and dining options that are both affordable and varied. Travellers will continue to seek healthy food options and increased after work opportunities. Many business travellers also travel with family members and seek not only to combine business with pleasure but in the case of single fathers or mothers, need to bring their children with them. Tourism centres must adjust to the travelling single father. These men who either have partial or full custody of their children and seek services such as bonded baby sitters, playrooms and rest room with places to change diapers.
Most of us have been raised with the fear of inflation, but a review of the world’s chronic unemployment or under-employment, poor economy despite world governments’ statistical games can be as dangerous or even more dangerous than inflation. Low interest rates are especially hard on the retiring baby boomers who are dependent on fixed incomes. Deflation at first seems great but as consumers hold back from making purchases in the belief that tomorrow things will only be cheaper, the potential for economic chaos, especially in industries that are based on discretionary income such as tourism, becomes greater.
About the Author: Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is the President of T&M, a founder of the Texas chapter of TTRA and a popular author and speaker on tourism. Tarlow is a specialist in the areas of sociology of tourism, economic development, tourism safety and security. Tarlow speaks at governors’ and state conferences on tourism and conducts seminars throughout the world and for numerous agencies and universities.