Has tourism completed its transformation to take on a new dimension? The question is worth asking in order to corroborate the new direction that is taking shape after the end of the health crisis. We are no longer simply talking about travel but more broadly about entertainment, social peace, family conviviality, and even societal reconciliation...
However, in order to make this additional dimension a reality, it is necessary to define its parameters, without necessarily seeking to reinvent it.
Tourism is now recognised as one of the world's leading economic industries. Little by little, its economic contribution to GDP is being taken into account, even in the case of the most industrialised countries.
Not so long ago, its added value was anecdotal or exotic. Now it has been elevated to the status of a "national priority", at least in ministerial speeches and in the development of strategic plans.
The recent crisis has contributed to us discovering in it unsuspected bonuses as regards resourcing, local (re)discoveries, and environmental awareness. However, this is only the beginning of a journey that does not completely erase persistent images.
It must be admitted that the simple word Tourism still conveys all sorts of caricatures that do not help its perception. "Man is ugly," said Michel Serrault in a parody film by Jean Yann... what then can we say about the "tourist" when they slip into their holiday best. How can we justify these style choices beyond the simple fact that they are visiting a country or a region outside their usual environment?
Through their behaviour, tourists still contribute to this negative image of themselves and the form of rejection by the locals it engenders when their presence is too visible. However, they are there precisely to enjoy life or a culture or atmosphere different from their day-to-day experience. This is why they have come to these destinations that have forged their own unique identities over the centuries.
Fortunately, the various confinements, and, above all the sense of liberation felt at the end of each, have brought a new dimension to tourism. Furthermore, they have highlighted its social, and even societal, role. The crisis has modified traditional values. The definition of luxury is moving away from the ostentatious in favour of the unique, emotional experience reserved for a select few. More broadly, traditional holidays place more emphasis on moments of reunion and sharing than on simply loafing about.
As such, can we still continue to limit ourselves to talking about just tourism? The term now seems too narrow to embrace these new expectations. It no longer fully covers the services that they can generate. Tourism is still an "industry", even a mass industry that weighs heavily on the GDP, but it can evolve towards a new expression. One that is closer to the zeitgeist and conveys more positive values.
Many things ni life are cyclic in nature and we are close to coming back full circle. Back to a time when travel, whether near or far, was a break from everyday life, and was born out of curiosity or necessity. A few centuries ago, Pascal theorised the notion of entertainment. For him, it was a way of escaping from one’s condition, a diversion from everyday life to partake in playful or more serious activities. Although he tended to condemn this escape from reality, it can be seen as a fundamental motivation for tourism and travel.
Breaking one's routine, discovering new places, sharing new sensations in all their forms are all motivations that should get visitors going. We are leaving behind a conquering form tourism for a more discreet approach where - ideally - travellers blend into the local tapestry, in which they have come to share.
Tourism is changing dimension to expand to a Hospitality which embraces its full meaning. It is necessary to welcome travellers, to accommodate them, to accompany them, to give them (to sell them) the services which generate the much appreciated economic spin-offs.
This new approach to the tourism economy is reinforced by changes in the behaviour of travellers themselves. The boundaries between work and free time, between professional and personal activities, are now much more porous. Recent linguistic barbarisms reflect these new practices: workcation, staycation, bleisure, workspitality, and so on. The clear separation between different facets of life is increasingly becoming obsolete.
Faced with these changes, tourism operators are already responding with new concepts such as coworking, coliving, hybridisation, though their economic models still need to be refined. Others have yet to be invented, with the constant need to produce the best services and experiences.
Don't call it Tourism anymore, tourism is a pipe dream! From now on, we must talk about the acceleration of emotions, and this is the vocation of Hospitality!