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Has tourism unfolded during the summer of 2021 the way you anticipated It? Maybe Not?


Issue 1: September 2021 (668 words/3 minutes)


It’s great to have you here.

Every issue, I will be sharing my different perspectives on the tourism industry and what is happening. We will look at some of the trends and issues impacting the industry, the winners and losers. As well we will look at some of the emerging opportunities and critical issues impacting the industry.

I hope you enjoy it, and most importantly, it gives you some thoughts and ideas and a different perspective for your organization.

Before summer had started, the tourism industry was brimming with optimism. We had been in a COVID-19 lockdown for over a year; consumers had money to spend and pent up demand. Secondly, the vaccine was here people were getting vaccinated, and by all press accounts, the number of infections and death was declining at a pretty good rate. What went wrong? First a variant, we were warned about it, but it seemed conceptual when we had the vaccine. Secondly, restaurants and hotel employment were not as rebounding as analysts had anticipated. Where did all the employees go? Why were people not going back to work? At one point, there were millions of open jobs. This created significant problems in service levels compared with consumer expectations and the overall experience.

· Throughout the summer, the variant roared back, and suddenly, press accounts reminded consumers of last year. More people were getting infected, deaths increased, and the country quickly split into two vaccinated and unvaccinated. This division was no way to bring a country together and encourage travel.

· From a hotel and travel standpoint, some destinations saw a dramatic rate increase even as demand volume was flat or down in specific destinations. At the same time, many in the tourism industry were looking for things to return to prepandemic times. Many in the industry were hoping to return to the "good old days," with airline travel returning, business travel picking up, and leisure travel to outdoor destinations increasing. But things felt amiss.

· Two significant issues were driving things to be amiss. The first is the vaccinated versus the non-vaccinated dynamic. As more and more businesses require vaccination and now the federal government requiring vaccinations its solidified the country's division along vaccinated and un-vaccinated segments. It didn't help that this division seemed to fall along red and blue political lines. This country division has now made its way into the marketplace where consumers may or may not travel to states, destinations, and places based on vaccination status and/or political status.

· A second issue of concern in the tourism and travel industry is the "great resignation" exhibited by hospitality employees, including lodging and dining. Many have chosen not to return to the industry. One can speculate, and the significant reasons appear to be safe in the marketplace, low wages, lack of benefits and the feeling of not being treated well by employers who have done exceptionally well and customers who demand high service levels to the point of harassment

· Moving forward, one thought to consider is, are we measuring the right stuff? Typically we have lots and lots of data to measure performance in the travel and tourism industry but are those the right ones moving forward? New metrics such as employee sentiment and one that I am proposing to measure wage growth rates in hospitality and dining compared to stock appreciation rates of hotel and restaurant companies. Metrics like these and others sure to follow might tell a very different story. But one that needs to be told.

· Does the current situation beg a fundamental question? Is tourism being led by those who don't care about the pandemic or those that do, and is this setting up a dynamic that will naturally segment the market? For example, will those vaccinated only select lodging, dining, attractions, etc., that mandate masking and vaccinations. Will those that resist masking and vaccinations only consider those places that will accommodate them.

· The sum of it all is, yes, things may have improved performance-wise over 2020, but something is amiss. The division in the country and the segmentation of a vaccinated and non-vaccinated and red and blue country bring us to the point where we are today. It is not what we imagined in the spring; it's nowhere near what we have now.

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The false narrative that non-vax/vax falls on red/blue lines needs to stop. Check the statistics. African-Americans are the least vaccinated group and are not typically "red". The reality is, it has nothing to do with politics. About half red is vaccinated and about half isn't. The same is true of blue, white, African-American, and nearly everyone else.

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