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21 Apr, 2020

What’s next for Travel & Tourism? For starters, more respect for grandparents

By Mishari Muqbil

With the COVID-19 problem reaching new highs with no end in sight, it’s important to look at things from a long term perspective to see what it means for the travel and tourism industry, what changes will come and what remains the same.

Mishari Muqbil


One lens that can be applied to this problem is the Lindy Effect, first coined by the famous mathematician Benoit Mandlelbrot and expanded by N. Taleb which basically states that the longer an idea has been in existence, the longer it will continue to exist. For example, Shakespeare has been around for 400 years, so for another 400 years, at which time we can expect it to be enjoyed for another 800.

Let’s look at the tourism industry overall and see if we can apply the Lindy Effect to predict what will happen after the dust settles.

Markets will continue to exist, there has been much prediction about the demise of conventions where people get together to do business. We’ve seen markets exist since 3,000 BC, they will probably continue to exist for another 5,000 years. How do you replace the need to look a stranger in the eye and make a deal? The form may change, conventions may become smaller and more localized. “Virtual conventions” are a few months old, their expected lifetime will be a few more months. They may become smaller and more specialized. For example, instead of WTM, one might have the “Boutique hotels mart”.

Medical tourism will continue to exist, people have been traveling vast distances to attend spas for 4,000 years for health and relaxation, it can then be predicted that these will continue to exist for another 4,000 years.

Hotels and Inns, a place where weary travelers can lodge for the night and get a meal, these have also existed for 4,000 years and will continue to do so. By that extension, restaurants, coffeeshops and bars will also continue to exist as people love to meet, to dine, and to drink together.

Religious tourism will continue to exist, people will go to shrines and on pilgrimages. We will not be seeing a virtual Hajj any time soon and the faithful of all sorts will want to go for a papal mass.

Sports tourism, around since the Athenian games, will attract crowds.

Gambling and casinos as well.

People will continue to want to live near water such as ponds, rivers and seas or visit places near these locations. There is a good chance that the first place people will go back to post-COVID will be the rivers and the seas.

Traditionally people have organized based around guilds and crafts, even today when people self organize on the internet, they organize along these lines, one can look at any online form and you’ll see communities of people organized around interests. People will try to find ways to organize around smaller communities on a human scale and services that facilitates this will continue to be relevant.

Now to make predictions based on immediate technology, naturally these may be short lived but also provide an opportunity.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be huge, for those who cannot afford to go for the real experience, just as one can enjoy sports on TV, once can also visit museums and national parks through Virtual Reality. The technology has become so good and cheap you can put your phone in a specially designed cardboard box which goes over your head and the phone magically becomes a Virtual Reality display allowing you to look around. This will take away some visitors from the lower segments. For attractions that primarily involve people looking at things rather than offering something for the other senses, VR will make significant headway in supplanting those experiences.

Many people will now be working from home, and their children Homeschooling. Facilities that have spaces where children can play or perform other activities while parents can sit in a coffeeshop with a notebook computer will become very poplar. Extra bonus points if it’s in a scenic area such as by the sea.

Schools will decline in importance while the market for Learning Experience will continue to rise. We’re unsure about what this will look like but the pieces such summer camps, field trips, play centers and interactive museums already exists. We will continue to see this increase as not only children but parents participate in learning and enrichment activities.

Where spas have existed for sometimes, we will likely see a rearrangement of healthcare related regulations, leading to a change in how services are performed. These changes will lead to more efficient and cheaper healthcare, reducing the need for people to fly abroad for medicinal procedures while telemedicine will allow affluent people in third world countries to receive world class treatments without having to go far from home.

The big question mark will be Work From Home, many families with children during COVID have found coping with childcare to be easier if they live within close proximity to the children’s grandparents. Traditionally humanity has existed as extended families, perhaps we will see a small resurgence. One way to test this hypothesis is for the travel industry to offer extended family packages, where grandparents, parents and children traveling together can receive a collective discount and measure uptake.

The tourism industry will see more competition from the gig economy, as those people who have lost their jobs try to make ends meet by driving for Grab, offering up their homes on AirBNB and selling food through UberEats. The days of people with single careers will be gone as people take up multiple jobs not only due to the prevalence of these platforms but also the democratization of education allowing people to develop new marketable skills rapidly.

Platforms with their ability to match and facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers will continue to become more powerful. There are many micro entrepreneurs today already selling goods and services online direct to consumers through Facebook and LINE* this will continue to increase.

*Full disclosure: The author is an investor in Page365.net which facilitates such services.

Additional disclosure: Mishari Muqbil is the son of Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil. He can be contacted at mishari@mishari.net