//Comment: Now is the time for change

Comment: Now is the time for change

The post-Covid landscape offers us a unique opportunity to learn and adapt, to look towards a tourism sector that can help make the world a better place, says Frank Marr of AM+A Marketing & Media Relations.

Recently while walking along a littered rural path in a destination our organisation has helped to promote, I questioned whether I should pick up that litter or simply walk on by. After all, our marketing campaign may well have contributed to that visitor coming here and dropping said litter. It was possible I was directly responsible. I picked up the crumpled can of coke and empty crisp packet, and continued my walk.  

As a marketing and PR professional, it is easy to chase the results to keep our clients happy and neglect the other aspects of what our work contributes to. In a market-led world, where maximising company performance is essential, it is easy to sometimes overlook the bigger picture. 

Responsible, sustainable tourism has improved – yet more needs to be done. At last year’s International Travel & Tourism Awards at the World Travel Market, there were just two entries for the Responsible Tourism category – as a result there was no first place prize given.

Tourism is the great force that has brought the world closer together. It has connected hundreds of nationalities looking to learn about the unique cultures and places around the world. The sector has done a lot of good – one could argue it is the greatest form of soft diplomacy that exists beyond the political and economic sectors. With a passion for travel, I myself have learnt so much about the importance of acceptance of other cultures beyond my British educated western values. Without tourism the world would lose one of its greatest teachers on the subject of human tolerance and understanding.

Yet the sector has also been abused to maximise profits – one only needs to look to over tourism and the immense overcrowding in certain honey-pot destinations such as Venice.

PR and marketeers working within tourism have to consider a number of factors to their operations – from competitive pricing to how to help maximise sales and turn products (packages and destination appeal) into a more desirable product proposition. 

To do this we have to understand the true nature of our jobs objectives – we have to learn how our marketing methods can appeal to our core target audiences. As tourism and travel slowly start to re-open, the sector now needs to adjust and shift with the time. Do we want to see a cleaner, greener environment?

Travel professionals to look at dictating the sector’s first post-Covid trends. Now is the time for marketeers and PRs to push for change – with the aim of encouraging a greater level of responsible tourism. How can we encourage our customers to respect our world? 

It is marketeers who need to drive for change – from boardroom level to social media executives ensuring the right messages are being promoted. Corporate social responsibility has evolved – overtourism has been a buzz word for too long. 

Tourism organisations need to learn profits are important, but also that ethics must be central to their product offering. It now needs to be more about how destinations can work closer with local supply chains, support better local transport systems and help to improve conditions for locals. Being overly focused on continuous visitor increase cannot continue. Perhaps the key is to now focus on other statistics – those based on sustainable deliverables such as how many visitors went to lesser known locations or the number of people who opted to take the train.

In PR we love reputation management – and in our role it is up to us to encourage new directions for the ethos of organisations. 

The post-Covid landscape offers us a unique opportunity to learn and adapt, to look towards a tourism sector that can help make the world a better place. Whether or not global tourism helped speed up the recent pandemic will always be relevant, but we should also focus on how the sector has continued to make the world a better, more connected place for everyone. 

Now is the time for the industry to move forward – to focus on community-first policies and sustainable marketing messages. By placing locals and quality of life at the forefront of organisational objectives the tourism industry can evolve to promote a better social purpose.  

Profits will always be essential, but understanding how ethical tourism experiences can be created in hundreds of locations is also key to self-improvement. Marketeers need to be at the forefront of lobbying boards, politics and their customers to help make the world a better place. 

I hope that my memories of next year’s hike will be focused on scenery and nature – not by the litter left by my fellow visitors.