[CROSSDEV] Domestic Tourism: a real opportunity to relaunch a better tourism
By Charles-E. Bélanger, Director of the International Social Tourism Organisation (ISTO), Associated partner of CROSSDEV
The tourism sector has been severely hit all around the world by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism could decline by 60-80 % over the whole year compared with 2019 figures. The impact of this loss in demand could translate not only in a decrease of international tourists, but also in a loss in export revenues from tourism and between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk.
Over this situation, in many countries, whether it is at national or regional levels; public authorities are trying to define new strategies in order to restart the tourism business, and many have understood that domestic demand was expected to recover faster than international.
Concretely now, we can see that in several countries, governments are launching communications campaigns aimed towards domestic tourists but are also implementing initiatives in order to facilitate holiday departures, such as the development of holiday voucher schemes.
If domestic/proximity tourism seems effectively one of the only options to restart travel and tourism in many countries, the question we might raise is why should domestic tourism be used only when there is a crisis, whether it is a political, environmental, security or as in this case a pandemic crisis ?
At ISTO, we strongly believe that domestic tourism should really be part of a national or regional tourism policy as it is the case for the international component. Why? Not only because relying only on international tourist arrivals is much riskier, but also because domestic tourism provides a lot of benefits. First, domestic tourism is part of a general trend towards a more sustainable local tourism. Then, at the quantitative level, we know that domestic tourism is much more important regarding the number of travelers, the receipts generated as well as by the average growth of domestic tourism compared to international tourism.
But the most important is certainly linked to the qualitative aspects: visitors have a better knowledge of the socio-cultural environment and therefore a greater demand for quality services and products; they are looking for a wide variety of destinations and activities (less congestion) and the offer of products and services must be very varied to meet this demand and, as destinations are closer together (proximity tourism), land transport is more widely used, the cost of travel is lower and this allows certain groups of the population to be able to travel.
The combination of these characteristics leads to the following consequences: the social composition of tourists is much broader; diversity stimulates different types of demands; domestic tourism is less geographically concentrated and better distributed over the national territory (also a characteristic of social tourism); the daily expenditure is lower than international tourism but the volume is greater; the effect of distributing tourist revenues to locals allows for real regional development and economic growth of communities; domestic tourism can contribute to innovation in the development of new destinations and new products.
In this context, social tourism, whose aim is to facilitate the departure on holiday of the greatest number of people - primarily on a national scale - can represent an important driving force for the development of domestic tourism. Experiences in this field, particularly in Europe but also in some Latin American countries, have shown that the introduction of active and effective social policies in tourism has made it possible to strengthen domestic tourism in several countries. It is also interesting to note that several of the world's leading tourist destinations have adopted social tourism programs, thus confirming that international and domestic tourism can complement each other.
For all these reasons, domestic tourism should be fully part of a national or regional tourism policy with a medium and long term vision which goes beyond the short term crisis. As the environmental, economic and social challenges are very important, this approach can contribute to a better tourism; a Fair and Sustainable Tourism for All.