Why the Corona Virus Crisis is a Unique and Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for Destinations and the Tourism Industry

#StayHome, for now, is happening all over the world. For the #hospitality and #tourism industry, it is a huge and hard-hit and challenge. The Corona #COVID19 crisis, the #travel ban, the closing of borders and all the other measures governments globally put in place, will change everything in this industry forever. Nothing will be the same as it was before.

But this is actually a good thing for #Destinations and the Hospitality and Tourism Industry.

This crisis is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the industry if Hoteliers, Activity Providers, In-Destination Tour Operators, and entire Destinations see the current situation as a unique opportunity to come out of the crisis and restart their business much better off than they have entered into this crisis.

This unique opportunity and time is NOW while the entire travel, hospitality and tourism industry has reached the level of almost ZERO occupancy and revenue. This quiet time provides the opportunity for all of us to rethink the way forward. Everybody will be starting at the very same level.

Since Online Travel Agents such as booking.com and others have become market-dominant, Hotels have paid 60% to 80% of their profit to them, plus they have handed over the customer ownership. For quite some time it was not sustainable anymore for Hospitality and Tourism businesses.

However, since the Hospitality and Tourism Industry has been very slow for the last 10+ years in the adoption of new technology and to obtain new market opportunities while the customer behavior changed, Online Travel Agents took over and Hotels around the world have become dependent on them and paying a premium. In fact, in many cases an OTA makes more money with a booking than the Hotel itself hosting the guest, providing breakfast etc.

Now in this Corona crisis, which has hit Hospitality and Tourism instantly and harder than many other sectors, Hotels around the world are furious with Online Travel Agents such as booking.com. Obviously all OTAs and many other platforms have been completely overwhelmed and could not at all cope with the number of requests and enquiries received from their customers. Guests in their desperation went directly to Hotels asking for assistance.

Hoteliers tried to handle customer requests for cancelations and refunds as gently as possible in order to retain every possible guest one way or another, providing solution such as vouchers, credit the amount for a year, free rebooking etc.

At the same time booking.com just decided and published on their website to simply 100% refund all cancelation requests regardless of the Hotels policy and regardless of what the guest might already have agreed with the Hotel. This behavior clearly confirms that those companies neither care for their so called “partners” nor for the destinations as it has hurt them even more at a time where they really needed the support. It is clear to see that those companies run their business model on the back and the account of the suppliers. This can be avoided in the future.

When #TravelTomorrow takes place within the next few months, it is high time now to make sure that destinations and their hospitality and tourism businesses do not enter the same trap again.

It is high time for hospitality and tourism businesses and destinations to take back control of their visibility, their digital presence and reputation, their marketing communication and advertising and most importantly and foremost their distribution.

There is absolutely no need for them to again lose the direct contact to their source markets and guests, to get again dependent on foreign and market dominating value chains where most of the tourism spend is not being contributed to the destination, its businesses and people, but to global conglomerates having no interest in the destination and their suppliers, but only their own balance sheet and shareholder value.

It is now the right time for all suppliers such as Hotels, Lodges, Guesthouses, B&Bs, Activity Providers, In-Destination Tour Operators etc. but also the Tourism Authorities and Associations in Destinations to make sure the sector is fully supported and enabled to keep more tourism spend in the destination and to take back control.

Digital Transformation is the ideal way to achieve just this. Now is the time to engage and to create and provide the local capacity, education and training, democratizing of the respective technology etc. to enable all hospitality and tourism businesses in the destination and to take back control for a sustainable tourism development, when all are starting at zero again.

The @UNWTO Digital Transformation Strategy provides a great framework and platform for their member states, destinations and the hospitality and tourism industry globally.

rainmaker digital as a social enterprise, focusing on a positive impact through tourism, has invented and deployed the VISTA Destination Network. An Open Platform and Ecosystem democratizing technology to seamlessly integrate all hospitality and tourism businesses in destinations. It was always our vision to keep more tourism spend in destinations for sustainable tourism development and to contribute to the Sustainability Goals. #tourism4sdgs.

As the largest industry in the world, tourism is everything and everything is tourism. Only with a sustainable and healthy hospitality and tourism sector, communities, regions and its people as well as many other industries are positively impacted as tourism directly contributes 1 out of 10 jobs and about 10% to the GDP globally.

We believe that the time for #TourismGetsEnabled is now.

We herewith invite all destinations to enquire for our unique Public-Private-Partnership model and our freemium business model, democratizing technology. Affordable and feasible for all emerging, small, medium independent hospitality and tourism businesses to become enabled. The destination is enabled to launch a digital transformation initiative to take back control, to keep more tourism spend in the destination for sustainable tourism development.

Author is Thomas Muller- Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital

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