Interview with Antonio Roldán

From your position as an academic and international consultant, do you believe that we are already post-pandemic, at least from the point of view of the tourism industry?

It is still too early to make a definitive assessment. Certainly, the sector is showing signs of recovery in terms of air connections, hotels, hotel occupancy in cities and other related activities and services. There is also a transformation of processes due to the digitalisation of tourism product management (automation of repetitive tasks, mechanised systems for registering or controlling travellers, digitalised promotion, etc.), the implementation of sustainable solutions and the use of business intelligence as the basis of analysis for tourism management.

In two years, we could be at pre-pandemic levels of business activity or employment in many regions. But it will take somewhat longer to recover the level of relative wages, incomes or traveller numbers. In addition, there are the macroeconomic or value-chain effects of persistent and escalating international conflicts to consider.

And from your position as an international observer, do you consider that currently and after the pandemic, relations between the tourism industry and national or regional institutions have improved or worsened? Do you think that the authorities listen to the tourism industry?

I don't want to go into who our authorities should listen to. But, history shows us that those who disconnect themselves from the feelings, interests and needs of the citizens will face indifference or vehement opposition from their constituents. Businesses or other actors in the tourism sector can legitimately, as part of civil society, sensitise our representatives to the appropriateness of certain regulatory developments. In general, I think there is understanding. But it is also true that the complexity of the current challenges is great. And this can be a problem in situations where the political pace is different from the pace of social or economic needs. The misunderstanding of what is urgent and what is important can create frustrations in one area or the other.

What trends can you foresee regarding the "normality" of the tourism industry?

There are several. The first trend is the increasing professionalisation of the sector. Both in terms of the level of technical qualification of our professionals and the adaptation of university training to the real needs of the industry. The second trend is the intelligent management of products and services thanks to real-time data analysis. The third trend is the personalisation of the tourist experience: the new tourist is perhaps more sensitive and demanding, with increasingly specific needs. Moreover, this tourist is a prescriber of the product he or she enjoys, influencing an environment that trusts his or her recommendations more than traditional advertising. The latest big trend is economic, social and ecological sustainability. Companies do not only respect and obey the law. They are also forced by necessity and interest to optimise processes and their costs.

How does digitalisation and the use of technology help the tourism industry?

The tourism sector is a protagonist in the great technological leap that has taken place in recent years. No type of tourism activity is unaffected by this innovative impact. Competitiveness is fundamentally based on digital and technological tools. Thanks to these, companies not only know their customers better, but also have more direct and personal access to them when the customer requires information, integrating themselves naturally into their routine. In addition, this technology allows for better use of resources both internally within companies and in the wider world: countries, regions and the planet. Mobility, traceability, artificial intelligence, home automation, sensors, means of payment, information channels, computing... The flood of solutions is overwhelming and requires many readjustments both in business management and in public investment and legislative adaptation.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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