Some of the Major Current Issues Confronting Tourism
Few people would question that tourism and travel can be highly volatile industries. A great deal of the industry is dependent on the leisure traveler. However, tourism is composed not only of leisure travelers but also other groups such as business travelers, and these non-leisure travelers often act and spend in the same way as leisure travelers. Tourism and travel professionals know that their industry is exposed to political, health, and economic undulations. Often it is heard that these ups and downs are outside of tourism and travel professionals’ control. While to some extent industry leaders are forced to react to circumstances outside of their control, an awareness of current challenges can help these leaders to prepare for eventual challenges and to seek ways in which to lessen the negative impact of exigent circumstances. Below is a list of some of the current challenges facing the tourism and travel industry.
- Tourism is a highly taxed industry. Few people, outside of the tourism and travel industry, realize just how many taxes travelers pay. Look at the percentage of taxes paid on an airline ticket, a hotel room, or a rental car. In some locales (be that local a country, city, state or province) almost 40% of the commodity’s cost comes from add-on taxes. When government officials claim that they must provide additional protection services to non-residents they often fail to take into account just how much money non-residents add to a local economy not only through purchases but also through the payment of taxes.
- Global standardization has produced less unique locales. The globalized marketplace means that often the same products are available throughout the world. If part of the reason for travel is to learn about or have the opportunity to explore the unique and different, then the sameness factor is a major tourism challenge. For example, shopping malls around the world often seem to offer the same products and many travelers find hotels to be so standardized that they almost forget in what county the hotel is located.
- Tourism and travel are highly dependent on the cost of fuel. The recent rise in the price of fuel such as gasoline has a major impact on the entire industry. Summer is the high season for travel and with the cost of gasoline on the rise, many travelers may have to adjust their spending (or vacation length) in order to pay for additional fuel charges. Those locales that are taking this challenge into account and seeking creative solutions will be the ones best prepared to overcome this challenge.
- The wireless communications world means that one can be there without being there. The new world of telecommunication can offer many advantages to both the traveler and to the travel industry. However, it also means that leisure travelers no longer are simply on vacation. Instead they expect to be connected to business and family at all times. In a like manner, when word-of-mouth combines with telecommunication, then publicity, news stories and events are spread instantaneously throughout the world. The telecommunications revolution also means that business meetings may be conducted on-line or via satellite rather than face to face and may eliminate the need for many business trips. Finally, the telecommunications revolution means that virtual reality often replaces classical reality. No longer can just one city lay claim to an attraction when other cities can reproduce the same attraction in a virtual state.
- Security is a major challenge to the tourism and travel industry. The tourism and travel industry should have received a major wake-up call on September 11, 2001. Unfortunately many industry leaders simply provided lip-service to security issues rather than confronting the problem. Too many tourism offices or convention and visitors bureaus have no (or almost no) contact with their local police departments. Too many police departments have no officers trained in TOPs (tourism oriented policing/protection services). Too few city councils or local governments have provides their security agencies (e.g., policy departments) with the economic and manpower resources to protect the visitor and tourism facilities. Almost no community has done a tourism security assessment of its industry’s personnel and sites. Unless the visitor’s security becomes a primary focus of concern, many tourism and travel destinations may face great economic losses in the future.
- Safety is another challenge facing the tourism industry. The current population is aging perhaps like no other one in history. As the baby boom generation (those born between 1946-1960) increasingly approaches its 6th decade of life, many of its members are refusing to slow down. Although the baby-boomers bodies are aging, travel and tourism officials are seeing many of these people practicing all sorts of physical activities, from motorcycling to skiing. This “refusal” to sit back and grow old means that tourism officials will be facing all sorts of safety issues. Mobile medical units may be needed, others will need special diets and readily available pharmacies open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
- Closely related to safety issues are health issues such as pandemics that can easily cause tourism panics. Not only can a drop in water quality (purity) become a major tourism issue, but also the industry must face the reality of pandemics and/or pandemic scares. The SARS “scare” ought to have reminded the travel industry that a few media stories can wreak havoc on the tourism industry’s viability. In a like manner, a nervous public may connect a health event with a potential act of terrorism. The anthrax episodes in Washington, DC are an example of how a nervous public may cease to visit a locale due to health related safety issues.
- Political conditions will continue to be a challenge for the tourism industry. On the international front, tourism will continue to have to deal with an ever more complicated and confusing political reality. For example, despite governments claiming that they support tourism, visa restrictions have become more complicated. Furthermore, no nation seems to be immune from street demonstrations, politically motivated riots, acts of terrorism, wars or bureaucratic red tape. These circumstances not only give negative publicity to the host locale, but also make travel more difficult and less appealing.
- Travel stress brought about by poor travel conditions. Few today would disagree that while still romantic, travel is no longer stress-free. Not only is air travel increasingly difficult but other forms of transportation are no longer hassle free. All forms of the travel and tourism industry have placed greater restrictions on what they offer and many have raised prices. Along with these restrictions, many parts of the industry suffer from either limited personnel or poor customer service. So far these stresses have not caused a decrease in travel, but the potential for such a turndown is very present.