In light with the occurring increases in Covid-19 cases and the uncertainty of traveling in the near future, it is almost inevitable that Domestic Tourism will remain to be one of the very few options in front of the tourism sector to survive. With the easing of travel and lift off the lock-downs and quarantine in many destinations, we saw some movement this summer, yet nearly all destinations were disappointed by the performance.

Cyprus as an example, and according to the Statistical Service, tourist arrivals were only about 20% of what they were in 2019 in August. The data shows that 104,261 visited the island in August 2020 compared to 553,845 in August 2019, which is a decrease of 81.2%.

Furthermore, from January through August 2020, arrivals of tourists totaled 424,850 compared to 2,735,839 in the corresponding period of 2019, recording a drop of 84.5%. This decline was in part because of a ban on arrivals dating from March 2020 imposed as part of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in Cyprus. A gradual easing of restrictions since early June allowed a trickle of visitors to Cyprus in certain categories.

In the first six months of the year, tourism revenue was only €122 million compared with around €1 billion in 2019, an 87.8 per cent drop, according to data released by the national statistical service.

Tourist arrivals for July were even worse than August’s figures according to financial reports. Things were so bad that Cyprus officials earmarked €270 million euro in support programs for entrepreneurship, industry, and energy-saving. Experts now say it will take at least two years for the island to recover.

From just this example, we can clearly see that destinations will continue to struggle in attracting International tourists who are hesitant to travel or that restrictions will prevent them from traveling.

Some destinations had great successes in domestic tourism during this summer season and vacations while others did not manage due to various reasons. Let’s take China as an example.  Domestic tourism saw a robust rebound over the just-ended Golden Week holiday, encouraged by the country’s success in stamping out the novel coronavirus, although levels were still well short of last year. Tourism sites were visited by 637 million domestic tourists over the eight-day National Day holiday that started Oct. 1, 79% of last year’s total, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement on Thursday. Domestic tourism revenues stood at 466.56 billion yuan ($68.7 billion), it added, down from nearly 650 billion yuan a year earlier. That, however, marked an improvement from China’s last long holiday period over May 1-5 for Labour Day, when 115 million domestic tourists travelled and tourism revenues were only 47.56 billion yuan.

In September, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO expects domestic tourism to return faster and stronger than international travel. Given the size of domestic tourism, this will help many destinations recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, while at the same time safeguarding jobs, protecting livelihoods and allowing the social benefits tourism offers to also return.” This to a certain extend is the case and is what I expect to be. The briefing note also shows that, in most destinations, domestic tourism generates higher revenues than international tourism. In OECD nations, domestic tourism accounts for 75% of total tourism expenditure, while in the European Union, domestic tourism expenditure is 1.8 times higher than inbound tourism expenditure. Globally, the largest domestic tourism markets in terms of expenditure are the United States with nearly US$ 1 trillion, Germany with US$ 249 billion, Japan US$ 201 billion, the United Kingdom with US$ 154 billion and Mexico with US$ 139 billion.

As for Spain, one out of three Spaniards are pointing to the trend of ‘staycation’ according to a recent study by Wakefield Research, which includes Expedia, which also highlights the intention of three out of five travellers to book a stay within six months.

In addition, more than two thirds of those surveyed said they intended to make the same number of trips, or even more than in other years, a fact that invites optimism in the tourism sector. The survey also reveals that, when choosing accommodation, price and location continue to be determining factors for Spanish travellers. On the other hand, interest in solo travel increased in France (25%), while Germany and the UK showed greater interest in international travel (18% and 14%, respectively), compared to other countries.

Initiatives to boost domestic tourism  

Given the value of domestic tourism and current trends, increasing numbers of countries are taking steps to grow their markets, UNWTO reports. This new Briefing Note provides case studies of initiatives designed to stimulate domestic demand. These include initiatives focused on marketing and promotion as well as financial incentives. Examples of countries taking targeted steps to boost domestic tourist numbers include:

In Italy, the Bonus Vacanze initiative offers families with incomes of up to EUR 40,000 contributions of up to EUR 500 to spend in domestic tourism accommodation.

Malaysia allocated US$113 million worth of travel discount vouchers as well as personal tax relief of up to US$227 for expenditure related to domestic tourism.

Costa Rica moved all holidays of 2020 and 2021 to Mondays for Costa Ricans to enjoy long weekends to travel domestically and to extend their stays.

France launched the campaign #CetÉtéJeVisiteLaFrance (‘This Summer, I visit France’) highlighting the diversity of destinations across the country.

Argentina announced the creation of an Observatory for Domestic Tourism to provide a better profile of Argentine tourists.

Thailand will subsidize 5 million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates for up to five nights.

Jordan created a domestic program named “Urdunna Janna” where the Government subsidized rates of suppliers to make it more affordable for locals.

Yet, domestic packaging should be built up like those offered for international tourists, and here I’m talking about the Jordanian market. The subsidized programs or products which the Government managed to obtain should be given to the local Travel agents and operators where they can build up full packages from A-Z to include, transfers, accommodations, optional tours, or packaged tours, guides, restaurants, etc, to cover the majority of the supply chain.

In order to make sure that the prices and rates remain to be affordable for the consumers, the Government can set an agreed upon mark-up (not to exceed, or from to) and competition will be on services.

I still believe that the hospitality industry is resilient, and I look forward to the future when we see recovery and the return to global travel. Whilst I hope that this recovery occurs in a directly forward pattern, we should be prepared to account for some setbacks along the way, so we aren’t taken by surprise.

Travel abroad if you feel safe, Staycation if you don’t.

#Stay_Safe and see you hopefully soon.

Sources: Various