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Meaningful encounters instead of mass tourism

© Michele Canciello

Experts at the ITB Berlin NOW Convention sketch out city tours of the future

It will be necessary to re-invent city tours following the coronavirus pandemic. In so doing there will be important roles for digitalisation and quality – whereby the word ‘quality‘ should also be seen in the context of significance and reason. This was one of the primary statements by participants in a panel discussion on Thursday at the ITB Berlin NOW Convention, chaired by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Arlt, CEO of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) and a member of the Committee of  Experts of the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF).

“The good old times actually never existed, and tourism was regarded more as a destructive force in many towns and cities”, said Olivier Ponti, VP Insights at ForwardKeys, a travel analysis company based in Valencia. According to Ponti, the subject of sustainability should therefore remain at the top of the agenda. Technical solutions such as digital reservations and big data analyses could help to improve the city tour experience.

Mass tourism will be replaced by tourism with a real significance, or tourism for a reason, a conviction held by Kum Hong Siew, COO of Airbnb China. “Traditional mass tourism is basically a form of isolation, but people want to feel connected and to belong, and they want to achieve this through travel”, according to Kum Hong Siew. That is why Airbnb is investing so much in the training of hosts, to enable them to allow their visitors access to special experiences and encounters. “I am confident that Airbnb and Airbnb hosts can make a significant contribution to creating city tours that are more worthwhile and richer in content”, Kum Hong Siew maintained.

“People are much more experienced travellers now, so it is only logical that there will be a demand for more quality in the future”, explained Jason Wang, COO of the Macao-based Global Tourism Economy Forum. For Chinese travellers, the main target group for inbound tourism to Macao, social distancing will continue to be important, while cashless transactions and contactless ticketing solutions will be accepted as a matter of course in the future.


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