It's something we've heard many times from tourism authorities, that 2019 should no longer be used as a point of reference for tourism. This is because the conditions and data from back then are not the same as today's. So, the argument is that we're essentially comparing dissimilar things. Indeed, this argument makes sense. You can't compare the performance of a healthy year with that of the following three, which had different circumstances. Those in charge, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and those who make a living from the tourism industry, know this well. It's not new that the Achilles' heel of the sector is its vulnerability to political, economic, and other developments.
Thus, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions have diverted the major flows of Russian tourists away from Europe, ultimately benefiting other destinations and boosting domestic tourism in Russia.
The rise in interest rates, energy costs, and inflation reduced consumers' purchasing power while simultaneously increasing the cost of tickets, accommodations, and products. We saw tourist expenses increase, but at the same time, there was a slight decrease in the duration of vacations. Fewer vacation days and higher expenses.
However, according to estimates, accuracy hasn't yet affected the demand for travel, which remains at high levels. This is still connected to the aftermath of the pandemic lockdown.
More recently, climate change has been added to the list of factors affecting tourism. Research and analyses have shown that Mediterranean destinations are losing popularity due to heatwaves, but the opposite is also true. Tourists are traveling more to Northern European destinations, seeking vacations away from the risk of heatwaves and wildfires. The trend towards environmentally friendly destinations and tourist facilities has also been emphasized.
We also see a growing preference for value-for-money destinations and accommodations. Surprisingly, even the flagship of Greek tourism, Mykonos, has seen a decline due to arbitrary actions, urban planning issues, and costs.
Meanwhile, staffing shortages in the tourism industry persist and may even be increasing. This doesn't seem to discourage new investments in the tourism sector, though. It remains a question of how hotels will manage to provide their services, both in terms of quality and with the aid of technology. While the human element remains irreplaceable in the hospitality sector, applications of artificial intelligence could enhance service quality and target personnel needs.
From all the above, the following becomes evident: Change is the only constant. Everything changes – trends, needs, priorities of tourists, their searches, and the destinations themselves. Do we have the reflexes to act and follow these changes? And if yes, what are we doing to gain ground and competitive advantage at these levels compared to other destinations?
Because if we want to return to a healthy year soon, or even better, establish stronger foundations for the next day in tourism, we shouldn't wait for external conditions to be favorable. The work should start from within.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]