Tourism Recovery – Early Days, Priorities
This week our #WednesdayswithMDBinsight post features Senior Consultant, Clark Hoskin, sharing his thoughts about the post-COVID recovery journey for the hard-hit tourism sector.
We’re starting to see the early stages of recovery efforts in the tourism sector as it begins emerging from a heavy hit at the hands of COVID-19. It’s early days yet, but there are clear priorities for the sector as the summer season shifts into autumn and reopening protocols emerge that support the livelihood of many stakeholders in the sector.
Business retention and expansion (BR+E) efforts are essential in tourism. From an economic development standpoint, we should treat tourism like any other key sector. In fact, prioritize it – because tourism is a gateway to new investment for a community as well as overall community pride, municipal branding and citizen confidence. Now is the best time to reach out to tourism businesses because many are closed or have reduced operations, so they are not as busy as before (a key challenge to connecting with them in the past).
Many tourism fundamentals are likely unchanged. People have a pent-up desire to travel and will do so when they feel safe enough. Tourism is scalable – and can be focused regionally. By simply targeting one market and measuring the response, a community can see results. In the end, a tourism product must be viable (realistic business plan with proper pricing), reliable (consistent hours and customer service) and buyable (bookable online at all hours) for it to succeed, and economic development professionals can help businesses build that capacity to successfully appeal to tourists and visitors.
What have communities already done for tourism recovery? At a global level, there has been lots of competition, with Japan and Switzerland subsidizing staycations and parts of Italy offering massive discounts. Here in Canada we’re less advanced and somewhat insular. What I’m seeing for the most part is hyper-targeted BR+E (primarily by phone) or round tables (again, phone or Zoom). In my observation, either communities are actively addressing the importance of tourism or they haven’t yet recognized it as a vital economic driver; there seems to be no middle ground. Destination marketers (DMOs) targeted their early focus on social media presence rather than investing heavily in promotion.
This spotlight on tourism also offers an opportunity for every community to be rethinking their CIP incentives to best assist their tourism businesses and help get them back on track.
Overall, my feeling is that tourism on a domestic level, focused on small businesses and short-term rentals, will rebound quickest and hopefully won’t contribute to another wave of infections. That’s why all levels of government should be tailoring their advice to specific business types (how best should a B&B operate, for example, or a food truck?). Eliminating confusion and aiming for clear and effective communication will be paramount as the sector works to draw visitors back safely whether from the other side of town or further afield.
To learn more about Clark and the other members of our team, go to https://mdbinsight.com/team-bios/
Our Wednesdays with MDB Insight posts feature the thinkers and doers on our team sharing ideas and talking about what’s important to us as professionals. We have very diverse backgrounds and a range of interests to share with you. We hope you’re enjoying these posts and that you will join the conversation with us and let us know what’s on your mind mid-week.