Scotland needs to ‘reset’ its product around the changes in tourist behaviour, writes JULENA DRUMI
Quiet streets, empty hotel rooms and desolate airports tell the story of tourism in 2020 amid predictions that the industry will see more casualties next season without more government help. Unless it helps itself.
While pressure will be applied to secure more external support, the industry is taking steps to readjust to the changing circumstances, and Scottish tourism managers believe the country is well-positioned to benefit.
The challenges are spelled out in a new report, Navigating the New Normal – Post-COVID19 Tourism Consumer Trends which notes that international travel has fallen by half and that Scottish tourism is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until 2023.
It found that as of mid-August just 16% of UK adults have taken an overnight domestic trip since lockdown restrictions were eased in mid-July. Over a third of overnight trips during the summer were visiting friends and relatives as opposed to “pure holiday trips”.
The reluctance and cautious approach to travel has prompted tourism managers to look at how to respond and what action to take to ensure the sector continues to thrive through and beyond the restrictions.
In the new normal, convenience, reassurance, value, inspiration and connection will be key to recovery, with responsible and sustainable tourism at its core, says the report.
Tourists will travel less, but with more ‘purpose’, demonstrating community support through activities such as volunteering, re-wilding, localism, and restorative immersion through spirit-lifting experiences.
“Slow tourism” will increase in popularity in the short term, whereby “we will see less travel but travelling better”.
The report by VisitScotland’s insight department, says Scotland has an opportunity to ‘reset’ tourism around these new consumer values.
Across Europe, domestic travel has led the recovery, with rail travel seeing a sharp rise driven by trips to rural destinations as tourists sought “fresh air and space” which has put Scotland among the top destinations for domestic holidays.
The paper notes that many of the new consumer behaviours already align with the objectives of the Scottish National Tourism Strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, published in March, which contains a responsible tourism agenda.
It adds: “For Scotland there is now an opportunity to become a highly desirable and sustainable destination. We can reset tourism in our own image meeting responsible tourism goals which align with those of the consumer.”
The paper concludes that in the new normal:
- Slow tourism will increase in popularity in the short term, whereby “we will see less travel but travelling better”.
- Personalised and bespoke products will drive innovation and adaptation in the sector.
- Premium brands will promote high standards of health, safety, ethics & customer service whereas smaller providers can project the warmth of human-ness through intimate “club” style product offerings.
- Transformational tourism and supporting the economy, consumers will “travel with purpose”, demonstrating community support through volunteering, rewilding, localism, restorative immersion through spirit-lifting experiences.
Chris Greenwood, senior insight manager at VisitScotland, said: “Following the lifting of the national lockdown restrictions, we are all coming to terms adjusting to the presence of COVID-19.
“Established behaviours have developed and new customs and habits have emerged. These developments have resulted in a new normal relationship between society and travel.”
Navigating the New Normal – Post-COVID19 Tourism Consumer Trends can be found here