“Authentic” destinations: the key to unlocking the recovery of the travel and hospitality industries


As the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) in Saudi Arabia approaches, we asked a number of industry partners how they see the future of hospitality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

How the global tourism industry and therefore the hospitality sector will recover from the devastation of the past two years is a multi-billion dollar question.

Trying to guess the consumption decisions potential travelers will make is a difficult undertaking at the best of times, but after a period of sustained – and unprecedented – movement restrictions in all regions and countries, predicting how the people will now book trips for holidays or work has become an extremely difficult task.

Early indications were not encouraging.

In the second half of 2021, as travel restrictions began to be lifted, airlines reported that millions of potential travelers were refusing to book trips because they had little confidence that restrictions would not be reimposed before they couldn’t fly, or because they had trouble understanding how the restrictions at their destination might affect them.

Given the nature of the low-margin/high-volume business model that all passenger airlines operate, finding ways to encourage potential travelers to overcome this understandable reluctance to book has unsurprisingly become the top short-term concern of the aeronautical industry.

The inability to find a way to get people flying again will quickly take on an existential dimension for carriers already badly hit financially by the pandemic, as governments become increasingly unwilling to continue providing the kind of financial support to large scale supporting them since 2020.

Likewise, hotel operators – among the businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis – have less margin for error than they may ever have had. Success in the months ahead will depend on investing significantly – and correctly – now to meet the renewed demand for travel in a post-Covid reality.

But what will that request look like? Where will she see travelers wanting to go? And what kind of experiences will people seek now that more and more of the freedoms they once took for granted are being returned?

These are fascinating questions. But finding answers to them is far from simple.

The emergence and importance of “authentic” destinations

During the first quarter of 2022, the signs of vitality within the travel industry returned, more and more vigorously.

Increasingly, the industry is seeing two distinct types of travel booking. The first is a preference for much longer-term planning than was the case before the pandemic, whereby travelers hope to encounter fewer travel restrictions if they book to travel next year, or even later. .

The second is for last-minute bookings, where travelers can be nimble enough to act quickly based on favorable travel rules or Covid fares. US travel site Kayak recently reported seeing a 50% increase in searches for flights in a seven-day window.

Interestingly, it’s the rise of what I consider to be “authentic” destinations that have been among the biggest trends in what many are already calling the post-pandemic era.

These destinations are sought after by people who, in their travel choices, opt for long-haul over short-haul in the desire to experience the thrill of an authentic cultural adventure – whether in the presence of culturally authentic, meeting locals or having authentic cultural experiences. experiences.

UK-based travel operator G Adventures has reported that so far this year only 18% of global travelers say they prefer to travel short distances on their next dedicated holiday, and that instead of that, people are actively choosing to book trips to what they consider to be. remote, under-explored and bragging-worthy destinations.

International vacation rental company HomeToGo also reported significant increases for 2022 among US travelers seeking global destinations renowned for their authentic cultural offerings, including Tuscany (up 141% from 2019), London ( up 266%), Rome (up 237%), Paris (up 185%) and the South of France (up 88%).

These trends are significant because they clearly suggest a reordering of travel priorities occasioned by the realities of the Covid years. Of course, in response to the common sense of confinement and boredom felt during lockdowns, there is now a desire for experiences that offer tourists an authentic connection with a welcoming culture.

It is clear that these new tourists are deeply interested in using travel to learn history by immersing themselves in destinations considered to have deep cultural significance. I think this explains why booking.com has reported a 60% increase in travel inquiries to destinations such as Egypt and Norway, for example.

We’ve also seen an increased preference for people to travel with friends and family, rather than taking breaks to escape them. It’s clear that people want the opportunity to reconnect with the people they love in new and interesting settings.

Destinations must now prove to future travelers that they have intrinsic, authentic and cultural value to capitalize on this new demand and bring customers back to our hotels and restaurants.

As the group CEO of one of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s flagship giga-projects, I may be biased, but I think Diriyah is the perfect destination for tourists looking for that cultural authenticity. It offers a chance to connect with centuries of tradition and culture in a country that is still a mystery to many people.

These are exciting times for the global hospitality industry. People want to travel, maybe more than ever. Already, forecasts suggest that bookings could nearly exceed 2019 levels globally by the end of the year.

These travelers looking for a culturally authentic destination will drive a large portion of these bookings. We are proud to soon be able to not only welcome the world and showcase the best of Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage and culture, but also play a key role in the re-emergence of the international hospitality industry. .


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