This is the inspiring open letter from our Sales & Product Manager Roberta Leverone about the opportunities that every situation can bring to us all: the future of tourism post-COVID-19 is in our hands.
Dear partners and friends, hello everyone!
I hope you are all well.
As global tourism continues to be affected by COVID-19 and our industry is hardly trying to stay afloat, I appreciate the opportunity to share my views.
I have been working in tourism for 17 years and I have experienced many bad moments, ups and downs, but as individual and travel operator I’ve probably never faced a more challenging time.
Like you -at FindYourItaly- we are dealing with a degree of uncertainty, however, we have our minds set firmly on one thing – recovery and the future.
This pushed me to reflect on the future of travel after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Italy, we had to deal with the virus outbreak before any other western country and at the very beginning, the fear and uncertainty for the health situation were extremely high. Then all other countries followed and the lockdown became an experience almost globally shared.
If for a moment we leave outside the dramatic sacrifice in terms of human lives caused by the pandemic and concentrate on the impact generated by this forced pause on our lives, we can see an opportunity to really stop, take a moment for ourselves and reflect on our priorities in life.
I am sure we all share the feeling that never will be the same again in our public, family, and working life, as well as in our way of traveling.
Travel before pandemic
In the past few years, the travel industry has started to rethink the product with an increasing focus on customization, connection with the destination, and nonconventional experiences.
Together with the debate about climate changing, people are now fully aware of the impact of mass tourism on territories and are more attentive when choosing a trip.
The idea of traveling has profoundly changed over the last 4-5 years. A trip is not just visiting a destination with its most iconic sites, taking some pictures, and going back home. People want to live a full experience, pick and choose what they want to do, adapt the holiday to their personal interests.
As tour operators, we design travels, and our mission when creating an itinerary is to allow people to explore different aspects of the trip and to put them in connection with the local communities they visit.
In my opinion, this is an essential part in the process of change to a more responsible way of traveling.
But how things are changing after the lockdown?
The immediate reaction was obviously a stop, both to planned trips and to future ones. But this forced pause that involved everybody all around the world has offered a unique opportunity to reconsider our priorities in life.
This surely is going to affect the way of traveling as well, and as professionals, we need to be one step ahead, rethink and innovate our product to be ready.
Some parts of the planet are slowly going back to normal life while others are still struggling with the pandemic and experiencing the lockdown.
Many of us in the travel industry are facing a total block in the bookings and a dramatic reduction in the requests for future trips.
In this time of uncertainty, what can we do?
During the lockdown, I had the opportunity to take part in many webinars and online conferences and all the media experts agreed on the necessity to communicate with our customers and create genuinely useful content.
Travel offers an escape from bad news and people want a moment to be taken away. That’s why even during the lockdown they kept on making research on the web for future travel and looking for inspiration about what to do next. And as travel operators, we must revisit our product, adapt it, and provide future travelers with strong and creative ideas.
What’s next: Innovation & Reinvention
In this particular moment, a greater emphasis is placed on domestic travel with a great chance to visit your own country. Nevertheless, people do want to go abroad and explore different cultures, just they will travel more consciously and with a new look at sustainability.
As social distancing and other precautions are expected to stay in place for as long as it’s needed since the risk of infection has not disappeared yet in the country, safety will obviously be requirement number one.
Probably this will probably address travelers’ choice to a return to nature, away from other people with an increase in search for off the beaten track destinations that can guarantee a more private experience.
But if we learn something from this lockdown is that we are social animals and we cannot leave aside human connections.
So probably our customers will want to travel a bit deeper, discover local communities and be more engaged in their culture and stories.
The pandemic also represented a wake-up call on thematics such as climate emergency and sustainability.
We all saw the maps showing a drastic reduction of CO2 carbon emission during the lockdown as well as animals taking possession of the urban territory, or crystalline waters flowing in rivers and canals (such as in Venice) usually highly polluted. These images surely represented food for thought!
Amid this crisis, many of us have experienced a renewed sense of community and people are now appreciating more the local business that can guarantee a human and personal approach.
I hope we retain that mindset as a travel operator and tourist. That we’re more mindful of local residents – and our responsibilities as guests.
Done right, tourism is a wonderful industry and a force for good. But the old model was broken. The travel organization needs to drive the change and inspire people by encouraging slow and conscious travel. It’s up to us to create the right product for them.
What we are doing
At FindYourItaly we have decided to make this difficult situation as an opportunity for innovation and reinvention.
We are working today for the travelers of tomorrow, and all our efforts now go into the direction of securing business continuity for our industry and partners.
As a responsible travel operator, we support many local communities and small family businesses in Italy, which are the real added value of our travel experiences and for whom tourism represents most of their income. We reward those small scale businesses who care deeply about their customers, local people, and the planet. With them, we have designed new itineraries that can inspire our travel partners.
In uncertain times we know it’s helpful to have some peace of mind. We’ve all quickly learned that we are in a new world now and that many more customers may have to change their travel plans at short notice. So, we’ve gone further to ensure that all our trips come with the flexibility to change travel plans.
I hope we can take the good out of the bad, and finally be more conscious about all the aspects of our life, including travel.
As Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel recently wrote “Tourism is part of the problem for conservation. But it’s also part of the solution – and the crisis has illuminated its role in protecting and preserving nature and habitats. It has, however, also highlighted the dependence of some conservation programmes on the industry, and the need to develop sustainable economic opportunities, in addition to tourism, in partnership with local people.
A future-fit industry will have a greater sense of responsibility and duty of care to people and planet. It will be better regulated, more democratic and accessible.”
So I am asking:
Are we in this together?
Product & Sales Manager at FindYourItaly