Research - 26.05.2020 - 00:00 

Tourism in uncertain times

Tourism requires mobility and encounters between people. But both are undesirable in these times of corona. And this is why the tourism industry was the first to be affected by restrictions, and will be one of the last to be reopened. A report by the Institute for Systemic Management and Public Governance (IMP-HSG) shows what changes tourism should be prepared for in the next twelve months in terms of the opening of markets and guest behaviour.

26 May 2020. A new tourist reality will be required as a result of the corona crisis, which could manifest itself in higher standards of hygiene, health passports for travellers, infection tests, quarantine in the event of positive tests, waivers of liability towards travel providers, and new etiquette regarding social distancing. Anyone wishing to travel under these conditions will have to be prepared to pay higher prices for a limited number of flights and seats. And the pandemic-related measures prescribed by the state not only result in supply restrictions and/or bans. They lower the demand for tourism and threaten the economic viability of tourism providers, especially those who depend on international travel flows. During the relaxation of measures, possible developments in tourism are slowly emerging, which Christian Laesser and Thomas Bieger have outlined in discussions with industry experts.

Conditions for border-crossing decisive

Although people want to travel, they tend to be reluctant to do so because of health risks and economic concerns about job security and income prospects. A gradual extension of the freedom of movement within different countries will only permit internal tourism for the time being. A bilateral or multilateral agreement on the opening of borders in Europe could take place within the context of a re-establishment of the Schengen Agreement, especially between countries with similar pandemic situations. Another conceivable option would be multinationally agreed pandemic-free zones, in which people can travel freely, which is currently being discussed in Australia and New Zealand. When the national borders slowly reopen again, which is expected in the next three to four months, conditions for crossing the border will be decisive when it comes to travelling: Quarantine regulations in the country of entry or administrative hurdles could make tourism-related border crossings unattractive. According to industry experts, open borders, flight connections and the use of tour operators as intermediaries are essential for the recovery of intercontinental tourism.

Travel less, but more consciously in your own country

For the time being, Switzerland must adjust and rely on domestic tourism, which is difficult to manage with reluctant guests and short-term travel decisions and lengths of stay. Flexible pricing systems could help to counterbalance peak times and utilisation periods, and scarce


capacities could be made available on a priority basis. What’s more, local and regional vouchers with a higher nominal value than the price to be paid could, for example, stimulate demand. Against the background of current conditions, the authors of the report describe a more favourable travel scenario, which would enable a more speedy recovery for small travel groups containing direct family members or close friends and other relatives, who do not belong to the risk groups. Trips that are planned at short notice using an individual means of transport, such as a car or bicycle to more remote areas with just a few people, will probably become more popular than longer trips in larger groups using a collective means of transport. With regards to accommodation, short-term rentals of holiday flats or camping sites with large private rooms and self-catering as well as hotels with suites and culinary room service will probably be more in demand than hotels with small rooms and areas that are used collectively.

Even if this trend towards less, but more conscious travel in smaller groups, with an increased focus on nature as well as higher safety and hygiene requirements, will continue for the next two years, the authors expect hardly any significant changes in previous travel behaviour over the longer term, as long as the existential foundations are not threatened. Once international travel is possible again as and when we please, the structural disadvantages of Swiss tourism with its strong currency and high production costs will once again be felt.

Image: photocase / elmue

Discover our special topics