October 2020

I’ve been looking back on the Let’s Talk Tourism articles for the past two and a half years to see what I’ve written about, partially because I don’t want want to repeat myself (as if I would!) and also to see what has changed.  In that time we’ve shared the history of tourism, how those of us in the industry used to do things, trends, what’s been happening locally, nationally and internationally, and a little bit of crystal ball gazing.

We’ve come to the end of the Summer season here on the Northern Gulf Coast and as we head into Autumn I think it’s worth dusting off that crystal ball again and think what’s going to happen  from a tourism point of view. Actually the whole concept of Autumn is a pretty localized concept for us tourist people.  South Florida and the Southwest for example simply have a dry or a wet season, as do most of the tropics. In South Asia they actually have six seasons! Of course in the Southern Hemisphere they are moving out of winter and into spring.

Anyway, let’s see if we can clear the clouds in the crystal ball.

Locally we are seeing, as I mentioned last month, an extension of our visitor’s season. We see a continued slight drop in peak, summer, season traffic. people are continuing to visit through the autumn months which we tend to look at as the Prime Season with slightly lower temperatures and low humidity.  Winter is the Gulf Coast’s time for Snowbirds, but that may be different this year.  Canadians, traditionally a big part of the Snowbird migration will be unable to visit due to the pandemic restrictions. Many senior visitors from the northern states of the USA may also be reticent to visit as they also react to the dangers of COVID.

Slightly wider afield the theme parks of Central Florida are open and restrictions on visitation has been recently lifted, however a large portion of their visitors come from overseas, and they are unable to visit currently due to travel restrictions. A friend of mine recently visited Disney World and reported that it was a great time to go!  There were no crowds or lines and everyone was practicing social distancing. His family had a really good vacation.

This time last year I was discussing the phenomenon of Over Tourism and the impact it was having on many tourism dependent destinations. Well, I guess that problem has been solved at least temporarily.  It has given locations an opportunity to reflect, reset and plan for the future.  I hear from many areas that they are now setting up future ways to handle fewer tourists, providing the visitors with a better experience yet still maximizing their economic benefit.

The concept of resetting businesses has affected the airlines of course and we’ve seen the retirement of older, less efficient aircraft and their replacement with modern environmentally friendlier planes. The same appears to be happening to the cruise business and many older cruise ships have been withdrawn.

Surprisingly the same is happening to hotels. The recent years have seen an incredible growth in the number of hotels around the world, but many will now close their doors for good as they adapt to the new levels of demand. Of course some of this is driven by an understandable wish by tourists to distance themselves from crowds and stay in vacation rentals, homes and villas.

I’ve said it before, being an essentially optimistic tourism guy, that there are silver linings to all clouds. If we emerge from this particular crisis with less crowded vacation seasons, more efficient and environmentally friendly methods of transport, fewer but better accommodation provision and happier locals and visitors then that is a good thing.

The autumn mists are clouding my crystal ball now, so farewell until next month!