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17 July 2020

Summer 2020: What Will Tourism Be Like?

Proximity tourism: these are the keywords to define the tourist season. As airports and hotels slowly reopen, travelers are changing travel habits. And a flicker of tourism has also reopened - but with new awareness.

For those who still have vacation days and can afford a vacation, it's time for choices.

Sea, mountains, countryside, lakes, cities: what is certain is that 90% of travelers this year will remain within national borders. But proximity tourism is not just saying "Italians in Italy" but also Germans, Swiss and French, even if, according to ENIT estimates, Italy this year will lose about 31 million foreign tourists.

On the other hand, on the theme of holidays - which after three months of restrictions are still seen as an indispensable breath of fresh air- everything and the opposite of everything has been said. Starting from the absurd idea of plexiglas boxes on the beach (immediately reurned to sender), through the notion of surgical masks under the beach umbrella, continuing to holiday resorts with no buffet at the restaurant, and winding up in the mountains - an ideal destination to guarantee safe distance on trails and at outdoor picnics.

But what will this tourist season really be like? And how will the ways of traveling and thinking about holidays change, also for the future? We talked about it with Magda Antonioli, Bocconi professor of Tourism Economics, ACME Program Director and vice president of ETC, and Daniele Perotti, our Alumnus, Director-Attractions, Tours & Activities at Booking.com.

A softer tourism.

Shorter holidays and preferably in the same country - as the requests for reservations on Booking.com demonstrate - but above all that slice of tourism including the countryside and villages will grow, conceived more as a trip out of town.  This arae has not yet entered the main tour circuits, but it offers absolute quality and can represent a valid alternative this year, which can - and must – be taken as an opportunity to make itself known and positioned.

All non-hotel accommodation will also recover with due precautions: bed and breakfasts now have the opportunity to make room for themselves. "But we need to make investments, first of all rennovating structures, even small ones: on the other hand, finance recovers public assets like barracks, and we would do very well to invest there. In the aftermath of Covid the demand for "out of town" is growing, and we must now focus on the lesser-known routes, including access by train ", explains Magda Antonioli.

Italy is in pole position.

With the first half of 2020 completely reset due to the lockdown, the World Tourism Organization says that if we started again in September, we would have an 80% drop in international arrivals, while now we are in a range of 40 to 80%. Worrying data, but from which Italy, despite the difficulty, is in pole position with reservations.

"We have  tried to send images and remind people of Italy and its heritage: cities and art, cultural heritage and, secondly, we observed the web reputation of Italy. As many as 280 million people were looking for information on our country. So a very broad interest remains, but tourists want security and they want information, because they are afraid, "explains Antonioli. "They ask specific questions about the rooms, if they are sanitized and how, if there are hospitals nearby, and of course  how the health situation is," continues Antonioli.

An opportunity always arises from crisis.

According to Antonioli, first of all it is necessary to support the incomes of those who have lost their jobs or have them on standby, such as seasonal workers, but it is also important to take advantage of the closure to do maintenance on the structures and perhaps take the opportunity to close those that are not up to par.

But above all, all-round innovation is needed, such as technology, booking and communication systems, but also to train staff and bring their level up to the new demand for managerial skills. "There will be more and more growth of foreign capital, of chains that wanted to invest and will invest: however, they will have to separate the real estate part from the management part, to be more proactive and modern", continues Antonioli.

The online booking market.

In Booking, where our Alumnus Daniele Perotti works, they are optimistic, but objectively cautious. They are aware that people will feel comfortable traveling again only when a vaccine or effective cure is found and, as market leaders, they are well aware of the role they play in this historical moment.

 “When we emerge from this global crisis, our world and our sector will undoubtedly be different, but travel is - and will remain - fundamental life moments for people. We truly believe that travel makes the world a better place. People will come back to travel, and we will be ready and by their side to make the experience easier ", explains Daniele.

But what does the traveler expect, from now on?

Travel preferences change and evolve over time, and this varies from country to country, but with some well-defined macro-trends. This is the reason why the online travel ecosystem will have to be flexible, agile and intelligent.

Perotti continues: “Our approach is to constantly examine the tools and services we offer to both travelers and our partners to help them start exploring the world again. We know that travelers are attentive to a series of requirements, such as transparency of cleanliness and hygiene standards, but also flexible cancellation policies, which are a great added value, together with an easy navigation system ".

How to innovate right now?

Again, innovating equates to creativity and flexibility of approach.

“At Booking we have implemented the use of visualizations on the platform, for example by changing the distance and travel time filters by car. What is fundamental is to listen to customers and really respond to their needs, and we will have to be even more empathetic, ”explains Perotti. “Now it is not easy to foresee the future, but in the meantime we continue to update our support and services, with a team that works 24 hours a day, because assisting travelers in moments like this is the most important thing. And I believe that many companies in the sector will follow this path, putting traveler safety first”, continues Perotti.

The future.

If, therefore, travel will gradually resume, what we see now is a change of course on the type of choice, which sees houses and apartments growing significantly compared to hotels.

"In early May we saw that reservations in the same country, for example, were 70%, compared to the usual 45%," says Perotti, who shares the results of a research conducted on five markets in May 2020: over a third of people say they want to travel to their country at least in the first three months of lifting the restrictions. And if the cosmic pessimists think that nothing will be as before, in part they are right. It will be - and must - be completely different, starting from the environment, which can no longer be overlooked. We need, as Professor Antonioli suggests, targeted tourism policies. This is the right opportunity to preserve cities like Venice, suffocated by mass tourism, a phenomenon that after this pandemic no longer makes sense," he concludes.

And for those who wonder if traveling will cost less, do not fool yourself: prices will not go down but will rise - and it is physiological. Prices will not discourage travelers, but it will be essential to guarantee the quality of services, rather than making travel a matter of price from the start.

After all, discovering the world is part of human nature and, as Steinbeck wrote, traveling is an almost cathartic act: people do not travel, it is travel that people do.