Nicolás Raffo Menoni

Post-pandemic tourism with Monday's newspaper

Nicolás Raffo Menoni 

Post-pandemic tourism with Monday's newspaper

"Any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence"

With the passing of time, things are slowly getting back on track and with Monday's newspaper we can draw conclusions.

Many forecasts and prophecies were ventured and as always reality hit us squarely in the face.   Many of the futuristic prognoses came to naught because far from hitting the target, they fell short or, even worse, gave results very different from those predicted.

In an exercise of reflection and collection of available information, we can reaffirm some truths and dismiss others.

I present some of them as headlines with their justification and opinion on the matter:

1) Tourism will take longer than initially expected to recover and that recovery will take place in unequal ways among regions and countries of reference.

Some destinations will achieve it in the course of 2023 and others will take until 2025 to overcome or fully recover.

Pareto's law means that the top 20% of destinations will continue to account for 80% of global international tourist movements.

Don't you believe it.

Do the math and add up the top 10 or 20 destinations in the world and calculate on the figures provided by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for global travel and you will see that you are not wrong.

May I help you?

The UNWTO barometer (2023) tells us that in 2022 some 969 million people moved globally.     In that amount, South America, Africa and Asia accounted for only 17.7% of the total between the 3 continents. Europe and North America alone accounted for more than 70% of the total.

2) "There is no change of paradigm", as far as Tourism is concerned, it is back to more of the same.

The figures and parameters to be measured continue to be eminently quantitative over qualitative and we continue to measure quantities (more tourists, more income, more headaches for destinations).

Moreover, we see it as desirable to increase spending and tourist stays and aim at luxury tourism, because if I have more, it is obvious that I can afford to spend more whenever and wherever I want.

In the discourse and theory, it is a rounded circle, but in fact, if I have more, I want to have access to better quality standards and I demand that my greater availability of money weighs and is worth it.  

That is why the question should be whether all destinations can aspire to that.  In practice, the answer is clear and categorical: "It is not for everyone".

3) "Tourism will be sustainable or it will not be sustainable...".

Wouldn't it be better then that we agree that it will not be? Because it is great and it is necessary and desirable to be more sustainable, but we still aspire to a romantic vision of reality.   

It's great to tell others to be more sustainable while I turn on my washing machine, the dishwasher and bathe with 50 liters of hot water.

That phrase may sound provocative, but it is the sad reality, the impacts generated by tourism are far, very far from being sustainable.   If we do not pay attention to this detail, we are starting from something that is wrong from the beginning.

Obviously it is necessary and desirable to aim for greater sustainability and enormous efforts must be made to achieve it, but these efforts cannot be the same for everyone.

A concrete and illustrative example:   

According to data from the World Health Organization handled by the Aquae Foundation; in Africa in a country like Nigeria the per capita consumption of water can be around 10 to 20 liters per day, while in a developed country that consumption can easily amount to more than 225 liters depending on the country of reference.      

The account and a possible concrete action should be an increase in consumption of more than 100% for some and a decrease of 50% for others. Mathematics shows that the country with the lowest consumption will consume between 20 and 40 liters per day and the country with the highest consumption should consume about 125 liters per day.

Any reader will realize that the differences will still be abysmal in the access to the liquid and vital element.

If we take other examples regarding pollution, over-consumption, equality and inclusion, to mention a few other examples, the same thing happens.

The million dollar question is:

Are we as supportive as we tout in discourse and necessity as to move on to practice?

I am very sorry and pardon the pessimism, but let me doubt...

4) People will want to go back to nature and contact with nature.

Yes, but as close as possible to how they live in the city.   And that means with connectivity, services and the amenities they are used to.

Obviously let's not be blunt and give credit to those who are truly naturists, but they are the fewest, just like before the pandemic.    

And if for some reason you believe that rural areas can absorb an amount of demand that exceeds the existing availabilities and infrastructures, let's talk to Harry Potter to make accommodation, gastronomic solutions, access and transport appear in places where they were not before. Because by magic alone is the only way I can conceive of a change of the magnitude that should be made in most rural areas that want to capitalize on this increase in demand.

Simply put, the demand is not matched by the necessary supply. For that reason they will go to the places that are available and if the demand is great, the prices will be too.

5) Smart Cities and Smart Tourism Destinations or ITDs will be the solution and the way forward.

This sentence would be valid if new approaches based on the application of ICTs can solve people's needs, but to the extent that this is not happening, we fall back into a blanket of doubts.

Urbanism is a fact that, far from stopping, is on the rise; people are increasingly living in cities. In regions such as Latin America this phenomenon is exacerbated and we have figures of 81% of the population living in cities.

In Uruguay these figures reach 95%, so solving the urban issue is vital and our lives depend on this detail.

However, as technology and digitizing everything is not the solution, and it is also expensive, what will be valid is to be able to have intelligence to use data, transform them into information and knowledge to be able to make the right decisions in real time.   Intelligence will be based on this quality and not just on having technology and flaunting it.

We need to be optimistic, but also critical.  Questioning these approaches is the only way not to be complacent and allows us to take action so as not to depend on others.

6) If someone wants to sell you what is coming in the future, don't buy, they are selling you smoke.

The only probable thing is that there will be much more than today, but it is very difficult to know what.

This happens for the simple reason that more and more new knowledge is being generated, and at an exponential rate.    

We are used to think and imagine with human logics that we apply to our likeness, and yet machines and computers are designed and programmed to systematize in this way and faster than humans.

Assuming that our brain capacity is still largely unknown, and if it were possible for machines to reason based on networks similar to those established by neurons (neural networks and deep learning), but faster, learning from these processes and in exponential ways, a new world would open up.    Even if they could be endowed with a system different from the one we apply today, it would not be unreasonable to imagine that a universe of new possibilities would open up that are unfathomable with the logics we think and understand today.     In such a case, it would be unimaginable what could happen in an apparently not so distant future.

We should not be afraid of the possible scenarios I am referring to; we should take a critical look or perspective, outline strategies and flexible paths and adopt an open and resilient mind in order to be able to adapt.

The only thing I dare to say is that the motto will be more than ever: "adapt or die".

What would happen even if none of this were to happen?

Let's think of a natural or man-made cataclysm.   In those cases we will also have to adapt to new realities, which are not possible to manage or ensure with the logics we use today.

I leave here, with an optimistic view of the future and critical at the same time, with the need to continue learning in order to adapt to what is to come.   Time will tell, let's wait for Tuesday's newspaper...

Author: Mag. Nicolás Raffo Menoni

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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