Revival of the tourism industry in 2021

Tourism revival

While many countries are experiencing a revival in domestic tourism, international tourism is still heavily restricted. Can higher education play a role in rescuing the international tourism industry? 

On 4 February 2020, American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings Inc suspended flights to Hong Kong, becoming the first airline of a large scale to halt operations a result of the developing pandemic.  

It wasn’t long before other airlines followed suit and countries all over the world began imposing travel bans to prevent further spread of COVID-19.  

These restrictions had a devastating impact on the international tourism industry.  

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the number of international tourist arrivals fell by 74% in 2020 compared with the previous year, with economic losses predicting to be between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021. 

Domestic tourism has also been significantly impacted in many countries, with quarantines and lockdowns limiting the mobility of residents and forcing the closure of hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations.  

But as vaccine rollouts begin to take effect across the world, the tourism industry is looking at ways to reopen.  

This is likely to be a simpler and more successful operation for domestic tourism.  

In fact, with many counties beginning to lift internal restrictions, while international travel remains limited to varying degrees, domestic tourism is set to rise in popularity.  

According to Travel Daily News, a “summer of staycations” could boost UK tourism spend by £3.6bn, with the current phase of coronavirus restrictions leading to a 33% uplift in domestic holiday bookings in the country.  

But what about international tourism? 

Experts have predicted that COVID-19 is “here to stay”, with a zero-COVID strategy “improbable”.  

Instead, according to Nature, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to become an endemic, “meaning that it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come”. 

In order to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, the international tourism industry must find ways of adapting to the new normal.  

 Higher education institutions have a significant role to play in the search for effective solutions to the issues facing the international tourism industry.  

Not only are they educating the next generation of industry leaders, but the research being conducted at higher education institutions can have an immediate and significant impact on the industry today.  

The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, UK, has been working closely with the industry “to learn about the needs and requirements of businesses and travellers to be able to return to a new normality when it comes to travelling and the prosperity of businesses”. 

Their most recent work, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, investigates “the impact of COVID-19 on the visitor demand and the market recovery in 39 destinations of the [Asia-Pacific] region”.  

In addition to this, academics at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, India, the Jagan Institute of Management Studies Rohini, India and the University of Puerto Rico, USA have collaborated to develop a “resilience-based framework” for recovering the tourism industry as the pandemic subsides.  

Their research found that factors such as technological innovation and consumer confidence will likely play a critical role in the revival of the industry.  

They also predict that the tourism industry may “transform into a new global economic order characterized by sustainable tourism, society’s well-being, climate action and the involvement of local communities”. 

This is an important consideration, given that many global leaders and key thinkers are using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to re-frame current strategies to become more sustainable in an effort to address climate change.  

In fact, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has stressed the importance of a “responsible return to the tourism sector”, not only for the benefit of the planet, but also to address growing demands from consumers to address the impact of the industry on the environment.  

The global tourism industry cannot recover from the successful revival of domestic tourism alone. 

With the revival of international tourism demanding innovative and long-lasting solutions, higher education institutions could make a significant contribution to the development of these solutions.  

To learn more about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted tourism, please register for the QS Subject Focus Sumit“Sustainable and Resilient Solutions in Tourism Today” taking place 5-7 October 2021. 


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