There is little doubt that these past few weeks have felt like decades for the travel and tourism industry as a landscape nobody could have imagined is now a reality. Across the globe, destinations and countries are closed to international visitors; airlines have grounded either all or the vast majority of their planes, cruise lines have confined their fleets to port and hotels and resorts placing their properties on pause.
Arguably, no market sector has been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the tourism and hospitality industries. Around the continent, countless jobs were lost because of the virus. What’s more, some nations have extended advice against travelling overseas for an “indefinite period.”
The challenge for the sector is a horribly simple one. How do you keep the idea and desire to travel alive when travel is banned in such an unimaginable way?
If history has taught us one thing, it is that necessity is the mother of all invention and we are incredibly innovative when times are at their hardest. And, with the COVID-19 crisis and all its challenges for the travel and hospitality sector, we are seeing travel professionals and travel brands showing incredible, innovative initiatives to keep the travel dream alive for many. It is known as armchair tourism and it is surprisingly successful.
Many travel brands and destinations are working on the premise that if the travel consumer can’t come to us we will go to the travel consumer. Reed Exhibitions Africa will launch a digital platform in a bid to “bring the Africa to its audience” through Africa Travel Week.
The digital event will “provide enriching cultural content and livestreaming video talks and experiences from around the world”, with live content from “experts, partners and notable individuals.” Elsewhere, content creators, travel brands and tourism boards are using their channels to encourage travellers to stay home, dream now – and travel later. They are keeping their destinations front of mind by giving users on social media a slice of stunning pictures and videos of the destination to bolster morale.
The evidence now is that many tourist boards that have any experiences or attractions that can be viewed virtually, or if there is the ability to create content that could create this illusion, are using this approach to encourage future visits.
A great example of this is tourism boards who have a dedicated page on their website promoting virtual experiences. You don’t have to leave home to experience the sparkling magnificence of safaris, museums and many other extraordinary places.
No one knows how long the pandemic will last or, indeed, what the post pandemic world will look like. But one thing is certain, destinations and travel brands can keep the magic and inspiration of travel alive for now – even if it is virtually, from the armchair.