This crisis will end. That’s one of the few certainties at a time of unnerving uncertainty. To quote the actor Brian Cox the world is making even less sense than it ever did. So is it possible to read the runes and discern some trends that may well emerge in the tourism space after this pandemic eases then finishes? Possible and indeed therapeutic if nothing else. It does no harm to throw some leaves up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
The era of the ultra-staycation may well be ushered in by this global crisis. It might be better to call them ‘micro-holidays’ where one holidays within a 50-km radius of home. That would seem almost luxurious, even decadent, after our 2km ‘confinement’ at present. People may be less inclined to book foreign holidays and trips on the spur of the moment. If the impulse to book breaks at the last possible moment lives on at all it may well take the form of staying close to home while away.
Those trips taken close to home may well become more experiential in nature too. The person who can catch and skin a rabbit or sow and grow potatoes becomes much more attractive during these times. Breaks combined with learning how to grow your own fruit or veg, brew your own, ferment your own and preserve your own food supplies will almost definitely become a much bigger niche than it is today. Survivalist courses will be embraced too rather than, as at present, mistrusted or misconstrued. Also tech camps and workshops where you get away for a few days and learn skills such as using a 3-D printer may become much more commonplace.
On the international front air travel may never return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Companies that took their staff abroad every year without fail for team bonding and upskilling may scale that investment back or do it within their own countries only. The corporate market may well be a slimmer, more elusive beast to catch and snare going forward. If that is the case even more care and attention will have to be devoted to our domestic tourism market. For both international and domestic markets more and more virtual walking tours, tasting tours, gallery tours and museum tours will have to be commissioned and uploaded as part of a marketing mix to grab a slice of a much reduced tourism pie. Indeed tourism operators will have to invest more in their online presence and tweak or indeed pivot the ‘call to action’ of their business to survive.
There is no need to despair however. Ireland will be still seen as a green and safe place to travel to as this pandemic disappears in the rear-view mirror. Tourism businesses here however will need to more innovative with their offerings and unique, even quirky, in their messaging to retain a proportion of the business they were getting before this storm blew in and flipped over many of the cast-iron certainties we as an industry held so dear.