When it comes to return of tourism pre-covid, the results imply that tourism on a global level will not return to pre-covid levels before 2023. In fact, 84% of experts believe that it will happen in the second half of 2023 or 2024 and later. NWTO’s extended scenarios for 2021-2024 indicate that it could take two-and-a-half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.
The UNWTO has also implemented a tracker towards measuring countries on a global and regional level recovery in terms of tourist arrivals, seat capacity in air routes, hotel searching and bookings etc. in order to provide a better understanding of recovery in each individual country, this in turn gives the opportunity for countries to redefine strategies and solutions for targeting and promoting tourism in specific places. The most comprehensive tourism dashboard to date, the Tracker is the result of a partnership between international organizations and the private sector.
The data for the Balkans and North Macedonia are even more promising. Respondents among international tour operators believe that guests who cancelled in 2019 will return in 2 years (43%) or even earlier – this year (22%). 35% of them believe they will return in 3 years.
Below is a set of must have preparation for tourism sector to be able to fast track recovery.
1) Create distribution channels through technology
North Macedonia is far behind reaching target customers. We want smaller groups, adventurers and culture lovers to be able to find the small villa owners in each town.
In a recent survey conducted by Censuswide, more than four in five travelers said technology would increase their confidence to travel in the next 12 months.
Booking platforms, digital promotion, accurate websites are a must in 2021 and beyond.
2) Adopt communication strategy towards the target market and consider other forms than traditional promotional campaign.
North Macedonia needs to appeal to the world with clear information of the exact offer. As mentioned below, innovative forms are missing, such as promotion of the film industry.
Foreigners do not know what to expect and where to find it. Immediately after the pandemics, transparency, clear communication and seamless payments and boarding are the clear winners of 2021.It is anticipated that reviews will be coming increasingly vital, both online and by word of mouth, as people seek recommendations and reassurance about health and safety measures. Restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions that get Covid-19 precautions right, will see it reflected in visitor numbers.
3) Consider promotional messages for reconnection
Travelers’ wanderlust will be stronger than ever – it will be a year of renewal and reconnection.
We need to be ready to call in all our previous visitors from abroad to come back. Do we have the databases of previous visitors? Do we know who they are?
It is a matter of creativity which slogan would we use to associate the memories of destinations in our country. A database of the visitors with historical data is inevitable.
4) Engage in a decade long product development for nature aware travelers
People will be more than ever conscientious about how they travel, they’ll want to minimize the footprint of their journey and make sure their presence is having a positive impact on their host destination. Any developed eco friendly tour, that help nature to be recreated or engage travelers to become one with ecosystems will be next must have within the itinerary of travel agencies. Strong recommendation comes in for
· Creation of zero-waste zones
· Supporting green destinations with visible laws and regulations
· Integrating “green practices” amongst travel businesses
5) Fast track the product development for the changed concept of travelling.
With added travel considerations, travelers will be looking for unique experiences, taking fewer flights but making those journeys count by staying longer and getting more out of their journey. We need to find our target markets and secure direct flight (charters) to the desired market. The rest is – extension of travel stay, per arrival. For this the development support can be focused on
· Creation of longer itineraries for different target markets
· Combination of cheaper accommodation with more activities ending mid-day so the afternoons are free
· Avoiding super full agendas popular in the organized trips
Help travel agencies with capacity building for new points of earning. Agents need to charge on their expertise. Respondents in the research for international demand for N.Macedonia, believe that their customers’ preferred method of finding out about their destination before booking is researching online (53%) , followed by asking the travel agent (26%) and checking social media (15%).
Respondents in the research for international demand, stated that very rarely do their guests opt for a visit of less than 3 days. Most often, travelers opt for a stay of up to 6 days (43%) or even more (49%).
6)Engage in a public private dialogue for information, accessibility and safety.
· INFORMATION and promotion from film industry
Respondents in our international demand research suggest favoring the film industry to use the country as a backdrop for their telenovelas or other TV shows, and promotion in collaboration with bloggers, journalists, film troupes and other influencers.N.Macedonia has popular film makers and budget with in the Agency for film making , often larger than the budget of APST for promotion itself.
Airlines need to fly back to our country, irrelevant if they choose Skopje or Ohrid.
Low budget and regional airlines are the game changers. Charter flights are already stimulated with the existing subsidies.
· SAFETY INSURANCE
Each travel sector has launched Covid-19 insurance products to increase consumer confidence and governments are and will be pushing forward with more rapid testing facilities in airports to provide quarantine free travel routes, which will be vital to boosting tourism in 2021.
*Findings are excluded from a paid research study for IME and SIPPO, SDC funded programmes in North Macedonia