Three key concepts as we rethink, retool, and reinvent

Presented by the Future Tourism Group at Simpleview

In March 2020, the travel industry was hit by a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. The COVID-19 pandemic turned our industry upside-down, forcing destination professionals to adapt in unprecedented ways.

During this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to industry thought leaders around the world to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.

These interviews were featured on season one of the Future of Tourism podcast, hosted by tourism change agent and visionary, David Peacock.

Throughout these conversations, several recurring themes emerged:

  • The pressing need for real and substantive stakeholder engagement,
  • the necessity for destination organizations to reinvent themselves in terms of community shared values and,
  • the pressing need for greater digital sophistication in order to meet the consumer where and how they shop.

Stakeholder engagement

The best destinations are the product of highly engaged communities that take an active role in shaping their collective future. That’s why, now more than ever, there is a need for substantive, tangible and productive stakeholder engagement and strong partnerships that will improve our destinations for residents and visitors alike.

“Some cities have really been building that network and  expanding beyond tourism into the local creative economy and knowledge economy.  We are finding that with COVID-19, the cities that have worked to establish  those networks and have been more intentional stewards of their communities,  are in a much better position now to be effective in their destination.” - Greg  Oates, SVP of Innovation at MMGY NextFactor

Community-shared values

This year at the Destinations International Annual Convention 2020, Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer at DI, threw down the gauntlet in a big and unambiguous way; his challenge to us all: change as destination organizations, change significantly, change quickly or face irrelevance.

“What it comes down to is this, is the visitor-economy  really serving the community? Is tourism as we know it actually driving the  benefit to the whole and not just a few? And how can we create a framework so  that our industry is welcomed as part of the contributing fabric of society  year round?” - Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria

Digital excellence

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumer’s buyer decision process was completely disrupted from what it was a decade ago. Along with television and music, tourism may well be the third most disrupted industry over the past two decades. The crisis has further accelerated the need for destination organizations to meet the consumer where and how they really shop — online.

“Now more than ever, we expect everything — every service  or product, every experience, every outing and every kind of entertainment — to  start with a digital experience.” - Dan Holowack, CEO of Crowdriff.

All of these ideas were in play well before COVID-19, but the pandemic has catapulted them from desirable to essential. If stakeholders and member businesses don't survive, then destinations don’t survive. If citizens don't support tourism as an extension of their ‘place’ then it will never be able to marshal the resources it needs to be successful and sustainable. If we don't meet the consumer where and how they shop, well, frankly, someone else will.

There are indeed progressive destinations around the world that are already hard at work on these things and have been for a few years but… as it is said, the future is already here, it just isn’t equally  distributed.

The future of tourism — and more specifically the future of destination organizations around the world — is today inarguably about meaningful and productive stakeholder engagement that makes a place more prosperous and a better place to live. It is about serving the local citizen and aligning with their values, their concerns and their aspirations. It is about harnessing the power of technology to curate a “digital reality” for the destination that reflects both the place and its people, both consumers and citizens alike.

As we rethink, retool and reinvent our organizations, these three concepts must be front and centre in our thinking.

Simpleview will be joining City Nation Place as partners for the upcoming City Nation Place UKLatin America & Caribbean, and Global conferences on the 11 & 12th November.

Related reading

Can place branding save the world | Simon Anholt

How search insights can help prepare your tourism strategy for domestic recovery

Using digital data to adapt to a changing travel landscape

Creating the trans-national heritage tourism model of the future | Interview with Ivan Eskildsen, Tourism Minister for Panama

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