Tourism in the New Normal

  5 min 45 sec to read
Tourism in the New Normal

Tourism recovery uncertain in the face of protracted pathogen hazards, other problems.


Tourism in the new normal is a business of innovation. Rhetoric and hackneyed stories do not attract the travellers of today. The channels of distribution have been shattered and the ‘value for money’ proposition is drawing a lacklustre response. People have a desire to travel (pent up demand) but resources and protocols are becoming deterrents. Travel business is still tottering around near zero and any easy way out of the quagmire in the near future appears to be faltering in the face of the protracted pathogen hazards.

Travel today is not only concerned with money, but with enhanced safety and security. Security related to health, food, and transport, primarily dominates the agenda of travellers. People used to compare tourism related infrastructure in the pre-COVID times while planning their travel. However, today, they are more concerned about hospitals, insurance policies and greater connectivity for getting out of the destinations to their homes safely and expeditiously. Countries with good health facilities and enhanced compliance with international insurance policies are considered relatively safe zone destinations. Long haul and less developed destinations are hence, still less preferred for the traveller.

Today, almost all countries are grappling with domestic issues arising from the pandemic. Thus, robust media blitzkrieg is hardly visible on prominent media platforms. Same is true of conventional promotional modes such as exhibitions, trade and road shows. Marketing and promotions have taken a back seat for all nations due to the dearth of resources.  Take the example of Sri Lanka. How has this island nation been immersed in the cesspool of debt trap due to its leaders’ myopic vision and political corruption? None of the countries are in a position to move ahead with their plans and programs.

At a time when the supply chain is broken, consumers are becoming more conscious and demanding, war threats and tensions are hovering in many continents, price index is jumping to an incomprehensible point, trust deficit is alarming in all sectors, banks are turning conventional, states are locking horns over issues, multilateral donors are strangulating with their terms and conditions, and fear of a looming global financial depression is around the corner. In this situation, revival of tourism seems like a distant dream. Tourism can only proliferate in a surplus economy when the above indicators subside.

Not a single economy of the world today is immune to heightening global inflation. Nepal is experiencing an inflation of near 9%, while many countries have crossed the double digit. The Russia-Ukraine war has further inflated oil and food prices globally. This situation, locally or globally, can by no means be encouraging for tourism to flourish. As the whole world is reeling under either one or the other problem — war, wildfire, pandemic, political hoax/proxy war, calamities, and financial upheavals etc, the chances of the tourism sector reviving even by the next year appear bleak.

The new normal would certainly unleash new principles and practices with newer business models in all walks of businesses. Look at the airlines which are imposing protocols after protocols just to stay afloat. Likewise, see how the agents of distribution (travel, trekking etc.) are heading towards redundancy. Digital banking (fintech revolution) model has superseded all other conventional mechanisms in practice till date. We ourselves are experiencing how mobile application (APP) is connecting us directly with service providers such as airlines, bus, or cinema ticketing. Emergence of government controlled crypto in future would further disrupt this monotony. Many countries in the west have already focused on marketing their lucrative tourism offers by legitimising crypto currencies which policymakers in under-developed countries have still not understood. Such revolutionary trends will leave us far behind, if policies are not tweaked today to keep abreast with the threatening harbingers.   

The Nepali and Indian rupees are falling over the months. Since Nepali money is pegged with the Indian currency, the falling/rising dollar is proportionate to Indian currency. Amid the turbulent economic imbroglio, when subsistence is becoming hard, making travel plans have become an option that is lacking in terms of priority for many.

The prevalent carrying capacity of Nepal’s hotels and homestays can comfortably accommodate more than 1.5 million guests. Nowhere in our tourism history have we reached this level of tourism potential in terms of numbers. However, the carrying capacity of the nation has been squandered over the years. Therefore, the upcoming federal and sub-national governments have to strictly enforce revised policies and programmes aimed at increasing cross-provincial domestic tourists like Leave travel Concession, and MICE-Meetings Incentive Conference Exhibition.

The world of tomorrow will certainly not remain in the status quo for long. Hence, our thrust should be concentrated on enhancing domestic tourists prior to focusing on international tourists, as the world environment for travel has still not fully stabilised. Look at India, how infrastructure, rail, road and hotels are running in full capacity despite the massive slowdown of international travellers. Same is the case in the USA. This approach, to some extent, will put the brakes on the exodus of our skilled tourism manpower to greener pastures. This would help enhance the service quality that our industry offers and help in preventing the hotels from transforming into bigger shopping malls.

Governance in the new normal should be very liberal and dissimilar compared to the erstwhile situation mainly in view of its major policy reforms. The industry should fully open up to joint ventures and collaborations mainly with foreign equities. Turnkey model might be suitable in large investment areas. The world has become so complex that resources like money, manpower, machine (technology) are better utilised by opulent countries with robust resiliency. And, the probability of the world spinning intermittently is equal in chance as in the lockdown period of the past, our expertise would certainly not match theirs in grappling with the rising level of innovation, newer technologies, soft and hard developments.  

The state has to review and revisit its dogmatic thought process in the new normal by awarding its surplus energy subsidised to the tourism industry to scale down their operational cost for making it competitive in its niche marketplace. The rising trend apparent in fossil fuel prices has inflated the price level of all the means of tourism transportation (rail, road, airlines), creating the risk of making our tourism industry conventional and uncompetitive. Think today, or else, these issues will drag us down.  

(Mr. Baral is a Tourism Consultant)

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