Research conducted by World Travel and Research Council (WTTC), revealed that the Travel & Tourism sector suffered a loss of almost US$4.5 trillion to reach US$4.7 trillion in 2020, with the contribution to GDP dropping by a staggering 49.1% compared to 2019; relative to a 3.7% GDP decline of the global economy in 2020.
If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has taught tourist destinations and businesses a great many lessons, the most paramount being the need to reinvent themselves. This can mean, taking the necessary measures to recapture the attention of the global market. The pandemic has forced many to innovate and integrate the latest technologies, using state-of-the-art, commercial, digital-learning platform providers. Yet, the hard-economic reality can be expected to restrain major new developments for months to come.
Still, some smaller countries in the Caribbean and Central America faced the worst impact. Costa Rica, for example, faced a 48 percent fall in tourism revenues in 2020, which represents a 2.1 percent drop in the country’s GDP. This economic remanence of the Covid-19 pandemic is the grim reality that each tourist destination faces around world. Pre-pandemic, the global tourism industry was incredibly competitive, presenting in itself another challenge, that will demand fresh, solid and substantial strategies, that can only be forged from a disruption of an old mindset, a paradigm shift and the willingness, to doing things differently.
During my many years of coaching and assisting destination cities around the world, in becoming competitive and creating awareness of the paramount concept of Destination Branding, I found that often, “the easy way”, was the best way to approach the execution of this concept. Today, the gloomy, economic predictions compel a change, a moving away from this cultural custom of “shortcuts” and operating on what is “easy.” This requires effort, discipline, and commitment. A genuine and focused reflection of what we believe to be true, our value systems and the decisions we take, together with the calculated approach to doing tourism business, where excellence becomes the new normal.
Aristotle once said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution, it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” Excellence in Tourism is no different, and it is an imperative recipe Post-Covid-19 that every tourist destination in Costa Rica must endorse.
Excellence in Tourism is first, the belief that we must undertake to make the right choices and do so, exceeding in expectations. It is a mindset that must be built intentionally. It is an immutable principle, based on a high standard of ethics, enabling the tourist destination to be set apart from the competition. But this can only be accomplished only by an examination, a transformation, and an implementation of community ethics and values, capable of inspiring faith and providing the motivation and the willingness of residents to work in unity.
In the meanwhile, all global tourist destinations must work wholeheartedly under the honorable concept of Destination Branding (DB). Every other tourist destination around the world is working from the concept of branding and fiercely preparing for the Post-Covid-19 challenges, that lie ahead. Fortunately, Destination Branding is a powerful tool that has proven to provide, both purpose and a sense of direction. Understanding DB, however, requires, training and practice and the unwavering belief that there is no “Excellence in Tourism,” without building first, a brand for a tourist destination.
The building of a brand, post-Covid-19, also demands a view from a community perspective. This entails a focus on preparing and educating individuals – all locals, residents, employees – to not only carefully observe their own actions, but also to ‘deliver’ excellence. What locals do and how they behave, is part and parcel an integral part of the establishment of a destination brand. Hence the compelling need to train and equip the community, at all levels, beginning with self-assessment and the reshaping of their personal and community values.
The above mentioned, opens the space and time for each tourist destination all over the world, to work aligned, with the Country Brand, if one exists. Furthermore, it enables the opportunity for each tourist destination to define who they are, and what they stand for. In other words, it facilitates all tourist players to craft the identity of their destination and to think how they want the world market to recognize and distinguish them. This is the pre-requisite for each tourist destination, wishing to crown their tourist port-of-call with a brand. It is the start too, and wholly fundamental for, a tourist destination, looking to recover and remain competitive.
Ultimately, the power of the destination brand is in the people. Tourists cannot have a magical experience without the providers of the service, the people that make it all happen. After all, it is the fire of the tourist destination brand that stirs up the charm in the tourist’s hearts and enables a connection, that will bring forth the means, for inseparable long-term relationships to develop.
There is no magic recipe to building a globally competitive destination brand. It takes time, it needs an engaged community and the process is complex and laborious. Absolute commitment from people, who remain continually motivated is essential. Local residents in a community must be engaged in a caring, dignified and respectful manner. All actors/residents in a tourist destination must be given the opportunity, to understand what their unique skill sets are and coached in building knowledge, around core values. But first and foremost, leaders must draw the vision and the purpose of the destination, making it clear to all team players. Information about the brand development taking place at their destination must be provided, including conveying the paramount importance of every citizen’s role, encouraging them in engaging the principles of Tourism Excellence.
The time to embrace change is now. Recognizing the need to build a brand for every tourist destination is crucial in these post-Covid-19 times. Operating under the principles of Excellence is a must, and a given. Indeed, Excellence in Tourism is the best Post-Covid-19 approach to building economic hope for the many tourist destinations around the world, a certainty for the maintaining of a sustainable economic recovery.
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