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Practising Responsible Tourism During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, responsible tourism has taken on a new significance. Navigating the delicate balance between exploration and safety, practising responsible tourism is essential for safeguarding communities, minimising environmental impact, and prioritising public health. Discover how to travel thoughtfully and responsibly during these challenging times.

COVID 19 Pandemic

Effects of COVID-19 to travel

The global travel landscape underwent a seismic transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With unprecedented disruptions to international mobility, the effects of COVID-19 on travel have been far-reaching, impacting everything from tourism economies and industry employment to traveller behaviours and the very concept of safe exploration.

  • Global Impact of COVID-19 on Travel

 The COVID-19 pandemic transcended national boundaries, leading to widespread border closures and global stay-at-home orders. Travel ground to a halt, effectively bringing the entire world to a standstill. The initial crisis in Italy served as a stark warning for other countries, including the UK, highlighting the severity of the situation.

  • Empty Tourist Hotspots

Iconic tourist destinations that were once bustling with visitors suddenly stood empty and deserted. Notable places such as cafes, bars, restaurants, museums, theatres, and theme parks had to close their doors. Even major events of global significance, like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, were postponed, intensifying the impact on international tourism.

  • Local and Global Impact on Journeys

The pandemic affected not only international travellers but also local residents. Using data from Citymapper, it was clear that cities like Madrid, Paris, London, and New York saw a significant decrease in local journeys made by residents. This trend underscored the dual nature of the pandemic's impact on both local and global levels.

  • Resilience and Unity Amid Challenges

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, people exhibited remarkable resilience, compassion, and unity. Aviation analyst Paul Charles pointed out that the fundamental desire to explore and experience new places is an innate human trait, indicating that the travel industry would eventually recover from the setbacks.

  • Evolution of Travel Accessibility

The ease of modern travel, where one could book a flight and arrive in a different country within hours, has deep historical roots. Ancient civilizations like the Phoenicians, Mayans, and the Shang dynasty engaged in travel driven by curiosity, commerce, and religious motives. This accessibility has evolved over time to shape the contemporary travel landscape.

  • Origins of Modern Tourism

The foundation of modern tourism can be traced back to the "Grand Tour" of the 17th century, during which European aristocrats explored the continent after completing their education. Patterns observed in early travel, such as souvenir collecting and partying, have parallels with today's tourist activities. This historical context laid the groundwork for the current thriving tourism industry.

  • Massive Economic Impact of Tourism

The tourism industry's significance is evident in its substantial contribution to the global economy. In 2018, tourism was valued at approximately $1.7 trillion, with a record 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals. This economic impact has been propelled by factors like budget airlines, online booking platforms, and digital innovations that have made travel more accessible and convenient.

  • Challenges and Adaptation During Pandemic

The pandemic caused a sharp decline in international tourist arrivals, plummeting by -44% in the first four months of 2020. Lockdowns and travel restrictions prompted creative adaptation. The UNWTO's #The TravelTomorrow campaign encouraged solidarity among travellers, promoting the idea of dreaming about future travel while staying at home.

  • Virtual Travel Experiences

 Lockdowns inspired the development of virtual travel experiences that replicated the joy of exploration. Museums, landmarks, outdoor destinations, and even zoos offered virtual tours and experiences online. These innovative approaches allowed individuals to engage with the world's wonders from the comfort of their homes.

  • Future of Travel: Virtual and Physical Synergy

 The pandemic accelerated the emergence of virtual travel experiences. While the demand for physical travel remains strong, the technological advancements during the pandemic could lead to a future where virtual and physical travel experiences complement each other. This tech-driven approach provides an alternative way to explore the world and engage with diverse cultures.

Staying Informed on Safe Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you've been eagerly awaiting the chance to travel again, you're not alone. People have diverse motivations for travelling, whether it's seeking adventure, relaxation, or new experiences. A US survey highlighted the top reasons for travelling, emphasising the personal and emotional aspects associated with travel.

Reasons for Travel

- 85% travel to witness their child's excitement.

- 82% travel to relax and reduce stress.

- 81% travel to create lasting memories.

- 78% travel for fun, excitement, and adventure.

- 73% travel to explore new things.

- 72% travel to discover more of the world.

- 66% travel to strengthen relationships with a partner.

- 65% travel to enhance bonds with family and friends.

- 60% travel to improve their outlook on life.

- 55% travel to learn about places, cultures, or history.

- 40% travel to continue family traditions.

- 35% travel to check off items from their bucket list.

Importance of Travel for Recovery

Travel is expected to play a vital role in the post-pandemic recovery, not only for economic reasons but also for the intrinsic joy it brings. The freedom to travel is considered crucial, offering opportunities to reconnect with loved ones and explore new cultures.

Initiatives to Restart Tourism

The pandemic prompted a realisation of how accessible and convenient travel had become. The term "jet set" originated in the 1950s when international travel was a rarity, denoting privilege. Now, it's the norm for many. Countries are exploring ways to reopen tourism gradually, employing various strategies to balance safety and enjoyment.

Travel Corridors and Plans

1.Travel Bubbles: Countries like the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) formed travel bubbles, allowing border reopening among themselves.

  1. Traffic Light Systems: Countries categorise others as green, amber, or red based on COVID-19 prevalence.
  2. Green Lanes: Suggested for pre-screened travellers, potentially including those with COVID-19 immunity antibodies.

Digital Innovations in Travel

  • Contactless Innovations: Automation, including contactless fingerprint identification, iris and face recognition, and touchless entry systems, could reduce infection risks.
  • Digital Identity: Digital identities could allow data-based risk assessments, enabling safer and smoother travel.
  • Digital Health Passport: Such passports could indicate travellers' health status, allowing safer movement.

Ensuring Comfortable Travel

  • Country Policies for Safe Tourism: Countries like Spain introduced the Safe Tourism Certified system, setting standards for industries and providing visitors with confidence.
  • Domestic Tourism Promotion: Many countries offer holiday vouchers and promotions to encourage local travel.
  • Reassuring Anxious Travellers: For those hesitant to travel, options include postponing trips, choosing destinations wisely, purchasing travel insurance, and staying updated on news and regulations.
  • Remaining Vigilant and Informed

The pandemic has shown the unpredictability of the future. Staying informed and adaptable is crucial for planning travel. The continuously changing rules emphasise the need to monitor news sources and official advisories before making travel arrangements. This is a reminder that while circumstances may evolve, the human desire to explore and experience the world will endure.

Essential Tips for Safe Holiday Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

As holiday travel persists amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritising safety remains paramount. Navigating the delicate balance between enjoying a well-deserved break and adhering to health guidelines demands careful planning. Explore these essential tips to ensure your holiday travel is both rejuvenating and responsible in these unprecedented times.

  • Demand for Travel

The desire to travel remains strong, as evidenced by the surge in holiday bookings that followed the relaxation of blanket restrictions on non-essential overseas travel in England in July 2020. Despite fluctuations in circumstances, the demand for travel persists, underscoring its significance in people's lives.

  • Check for Current Regulations

Travel regulations vary across the UK's nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), and they evolve frequently. Staying informed is crucial. Regularly consult the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice, which provides crucial information such as quarantine rules, testing requirements, and entry prerequisites.

  • Anticipate Changes in Travel Experience

Post-pandemic travel will undergo significant changes. Travellers must anticipate these changes and exhibit patience as travel providers implement safety measures. Some noteworthy changes include:

  • Flying

- Social distancing protocols throughout airports.

- Compulsory mask usage aboard aircraft and within airports.

- Online check-in procedures and staggered arrival times.

- Enhanced sanitization protocols and prioritised hand hygiene.

- Temperature checks and the potential for COVID-19 testing at airports.

  • Accommodation

- Heightened cleaning standards and transparent communication about cleaning protocols.

- Limited interactions with staff to maintain distancing.

- Reconfigured hotel lobbies to accommodate social distancing.

- Encouragement of online check-ins and contactless payment methods.

- Possible closure of self-service buffets and specific facilities.

  • Assuring Traveller Confidence

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) underscores the restoration of traveller confidence through safety and security measures. These measures encompass:

- Implementation of proportionate safety and hygiene protocols across the entire tourism value chain.

- Clear communication of existing safety measures at destinations and tourism establishments.

- Offering information to travellers about expectations in case of falling ill during travel.

- Focusing on empathetic and reassuring human-centred communication.

- Launching campaigns aimed at boosting confidence, highlighting safety measures undertaken by destinations and entities.

  • Considering Travel

When contemplating travel, assess factors like a destination's openness to visitors, self-isolation or quarantine mandates, and the quality of information provided by your chosen travel provider. Determine the availability of services and facilities due to COVID-19-related constraints.

  • Personal Hygiene Importance

Travellers should take personal responsibility for safety. Rigorous personal hygiene practices play a pivotal role in ensuring safety while travelling. Emphasise:

- Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

- Avoidance of touching the face, mouth, and eyes.

- Properly covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

  • Environmental Hygiene

- Sanitization of high-touch surfaces within your accommodation.

- Cleaning clothes at recommended temperatures or upon returning home.

  • Mask Usage

- Consistent use of face coverings when moving between destinations and in public spaces.

- Correct techniques for wearing and removing masks, with spares stored in a plastic bag.

  • Social Distancing

- Efforts to avoid crowded or enclosed spaces.

- Adhering to physical distancing guidelines, aiming for a preferred distance of 2 metres (or 1 metre with additional safety measures).

- Preference for outdoor activities to minimise risk.

  • Adapting to Changes at Tourist Destinations

Tourist destinations will implement measures to uphold social distancing, potentially including:

- Temperature screenings.

- Mandatory face coverings.

- Online booking systems and time-slot reservations for attractions.

In Conclusion

Staying well-informed about regulations, embracing personal hygiene practices, and displaying patience and adaptability towards evolving travel experiences are paramount for safe and enjoyable holidays in the post-pandemic travel landscape. The interplay of individual responsibility and collective efforts will contribute to the resurgence of a vibrant and secure travel industry.

Key Travel and Tourism Industry Statistics and Trends for 2021

  • Impact of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic devastated global and UK travel in 2020, with massive drops in visitors, spending, GDP contribution and millions of job losses. Data shows international visits to the UK plunged nearly 30 million while tourism's GDP impact fell 49.1% worldwide. The sector faces a long road to recovery after the pandemic's catastrophic impact.

  • Travel Trends for 2021

While 2021 won't fully return to pre-pandemic conditions, there are encouraging trends to note. Predictions suggest an increase in tourists from 10.2 million to 11.3 million throughout the year, with a projected 1% increase in tourist spending between 2020 and 2021. The forecast anticipates total tourist spending reaching up to £6.2 billion during the year.

The trajectory of travel trends in 2021 hinges on effective COVID-19 management and the restoration of public confidence in travel safety. Traveller attitudes offer insight into the path forward. Sixty percent of individuals expressed a desire for multiple holidays, and 55% are planning trips spanning 14 days or longer. Health and safety standards are a priority for 40% of potential travellers, and 42% seek localised outbreak alerts through mobile applications. Furthermore, 68% of prospective tourists aim to support local economies through their spending.

  • Support for UK Travel Industry

To assist businesses during these uncertain times, the UK introduced several initiatives. A temporary reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% applied to hospitality, accommodation, and attractions. Destination Management Organisations received £1.3 million in funding from April to June 2020. A £10 million kick-starting tourist program aimed to support small businesses in high-traffic areas. Ongoing financial aid extended to sectors including retail, hospitality, leisure, heritage, zoos, and aquariums.

  • Safest Travel Destinations in 2021

A comprehensive study highlighted the commendable efforts of certain countries to ensure visitor safety. Countries were evaluated based on quarantine implementation, government response, monitoring capabilities, healthcare readiness, and more. The top 15 low-risk countries included Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, China, Austria, UAE, Singapore, Israel, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iceland, and Taiwan.

  • Travel Advisory

For travellers seeking information on COVID-19 prevalence, the CDC provides daily updates categorising risk levels in various countries into five tiers:

- Level 4: Very high risk

- Level 3: High risk

- Level 2: Moderate risk

- Level 1: Low risk

- Level 0: Unknown risk

In conclusion, while 2020 posed significant challenges for the travel industry, 2021 shows signs of recovery. The path ahead will be shaped by effective public health management and the restoration of traveller confidence. Supportive initiatives are crucial for businesses navigating these uncertain times. Recognizing the safest destinations offers hope for responsible and inspiring travel experiences in the near future.


What is responsible tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Responsible tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic involves following health and safety guidelines while travelling, being mindful of the impact of your actions on local communities and the environment, and staying updated on the latest travel advisories and restrictions.

Is it safe to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Travel safety depends on the current status of the pandemic and the specific destination. It's essential to check the COVID-19 infection rates, vaccination rates, and travel advisories for your destination before planning any trip.

How can I protect myself and others while travelling?

To protect yourself and others, follow these guidelines:

- Wear a mask in crowded or enclosed spaces.

- Practise good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently or using hand sanitizers.

- Maintain physical distance from others, especially in crowded places.

- Avoid close contact with sick individuals.

- Follow local health regulations and guidelines.

Should I get vaccinated before travelling?

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is strongly recommended before travelling. Vaccination not only protects you but also contributes to public health by reducing the spread of the virus.

How can I minimise my impact on local communities and the environment?

Respect local regulations, traditions, and cultures. Support local businesses and communities by buying locally-made products and using eco-friendly services. Minimise waste and dispose of it responsibly.

Can I travel if I'm feeling unwell?

If you're feeling unwell, it's best to postpone your travel plans. Travelling while sick can put you and others at risk and may also lead to disruptions in your plans.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 while travelling?

If you test positive for COVID-19 while travelling, follow the local health guidelines. Isolate yourself, seek medical attention if necessary, and notify your accommodation provider and local health authorities.

Should I travel internationally or domestically?

The decision to travel internationally or domestically depends on the current situation, travel restrictions, and personal comfort level. Domestic travel might be a safer option if international travel involves more uncertainties and risks.

Can I cancel my travel plans if the situation worsens?

Many airlines, hotels, and travel companies have implemented flexible cancellation and rebooking policies due to the pandemic. Check the terms and conditions of your bookings and consider travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related disruptions.




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