With cruise ship lines still keeping their Coronavirus-exposed crews at sea, and many countries still not allowing their tourism industries a full restart no matter how economically important the work is for people, it may seem like the future of travel hangs in the balance. Would you be surprised if we at the Big Blue Collective told you we disagree? Keep reading, and you’ll see what we mean!
2020 and travel: a bleak outlook or positive hope?
There’s no doubt, of course, that 2020 has not gone the way we predicted. The travel industry as a whole has also been disproportionately hit by lockdowns, government mandates, and COVID-19 alike. The very bread and butter of what we do involves people moving around, so anything that curtailed that movement, however necessary, was always going to hit hard.
But the ‘death’ of travel? Not so fast! While there’s likely to be a seismic shift in how we travel, and possibly even why we travel, we at the Big Blue Collective don’t think the outlook needs to be seen so negatively.
The most-hurt class of travel: large group excursions and cruises
Of course, there are two ‘styles’ of travel that will see a hit to popularity going forward, no beating about the bush. The large group excursion, and cruise ships.
While it’s never been a travel format we offer here, we understand why the large group excursion has been a stalwart of the travel industry for many years, too. The allure of ‘guarantees’ is very strong for humans. The idea of travelling en masse, with everything arranged and no worries, is appealing. Add to that the ‘security blanket’ of knowing you’ll mostly be travelling with people just like you, with no need to adapt to foreign languages or cultures, also has its own appeal. Especially if you’ll be travelling with a young family, or want a cheap and simple holiday away from home without much thought to it.
You can pretty much sum up a cruise as a large group excursion at sea, with even less movement than a land tour. Through no fault of the cruise lines, simply the fact that so many people were sharing a space, we saw some of the first highly-reported Western cases of Corona spring up from cruise ships. With that many strangers living in close proximity for an extended period, it was sadly inevitable they’d be hit by the pandemic.
These two travel formats have significant value in the industry, of course, and while their recovery will be slow and we predict they will never re-achieve their popularity fully, we also suspect they won’t fade away completely, either.
Does it matter?
The key question is- is this a bad thing in the end? Of course, it’s never pleasant for economies or jobs that rely on tourism to see a downturn. That goes without saying. But as travel goes, would the ‘death’ of larger group formats be as big a thing as gloomy pessimists will have you believe?
The fact is, this style of travel has been called into question long before the 2020 pandemic. From the damage done to Venice canals and buildings by overly-large, powered boats pulling too close, to the very questionable and unethical way native peoples have been sidelined in their own countries when the ‘mass tourism’ show rolls into town, travel rarely brings positive growth and change in its wake on a ‘factory-style’ mass production line.
2020 may have struck a rather definitive blow to mass travel, but the decline started many years- even decades- ago. The second we started asking, “How can we do this better?” in the travel industry, in fact.
The tourism revolution
Modern tourism is no longer just about partying on a beach somewhere- though, with the beautiful beaches of the TCI at our doorstep, you better believe there’s a lot of that too! But for many years now, we’ve seen a rise in ethical, eco-conscious tourism that doesn’t seek to provide ‘experiences’ at the cost of an area’s natural beauty, fauna, flora and people. We’ve also seen fantastic global initiatives that put the economic power of tourism back in the hands of the people who live in these natural beauty spots- look at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana, or the profound influence the Masai hold on Great Migration-focused tourism. Look at the funding being channelled into conservation efforts, helping to make a better experience for all and preserving the planet, too. Look at the already-notable swing to ‘small group’ tourism that provides better, more meaningful experiences and raw authenticity you just can’t get in a big group.
In short, we as travellers had already started the revolution, long before COVID-19. We’d already begun seeking smaller, more intimate travel groups that do less harm and bring deeper, lasting friendships and memories we’ll hold onto forever over ‘sterilized’ mass experiences. We’d already started seeking assurances that we’re not destroying the very beauty spots and friendly people we travelled so far to visit. We’d even started demanding to know how our tourism bucks will uplift communities and conserve wildlife and ecology for our children to enjoy, too!
‘Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time’
We’re sure you recognise this pithy, yet poignant saying. The Coronavirus pandemic may have struck a blow to the tourism industry, but the end result will simply be an intensification of efforts that were already underway. Efforts that will leave you with more and better experiences on your travels, and the world a better place for having met you. While large group holiday package brokers will have to adapt to survive in the post-Corona landscape, the positive change that is set to bring can’t be counted as a bad thing in the end.
The Big Blue Collective has always been proud to have eco-conscious, ethical tourism at the very heart of our brand. If you’re looking to get away from the unexpected stresses of 2020 safely, in intimate groups of just friends and family, be sure to get in touch with us today. The beautiful Turks and Caicos await you!