Updated: May 12
Part 1: The Bad
Warning: Do not read this blog if you are uncomfortable confronting harsh realities. Don’t read this blog if you believe our new normal will be the old normal but with six extra feet. Don’t read this blog if blowing up the bicycle tourism handbook fills you with fear rather than excitement. You especially don’t want to read this blog if you see the death of our current model as a tragedy instead of an opportunity. You'll be much better off watching these cute cat videos instead.
Still reading? It’s not too late to turn back and watch penguins going down stairs. I won’t judge.
For those of you that are still with me—it’s time to rip off the band-aid and face the truth that the bicycle tourism industry (and tourism in general) is in free-fall. Just take a look at the numbers.
COVID-19 is likely to cause $1 trillion in direct losses for the global tourism industry, up to $5 trillion indirectly, as well as lead to around 50 million job cuts in 2020 alone.[i] WTTC predicts a loss of 6.8 million jobs, with a total of 75.2 million job losses worldwide. [ii] On April 29th, the ILO announced that nearly half of the global workforce was at risk of losing their livelihoods. [iii]
Enhanced short-term challenges could also feature: Australia and New Zealand for example, have already discussed the banning of international travel, both inbound and outbound, for 12 months.[iv] A study conducted by Longwoods International found that “84% of travelers planning to travel in the next six months will change their travel plans due to coronavirus. 54% had already canceled their trips, 43% reduced travel plans, 22% changed their trip destinations so they could drive instead of fly, and 13% changed from international to domestic trips. Over the next 6 months 67% of people surveyed said COVID-19 would greatly impact their travel decisions.[v]
The previous normal may never be fully replicated, with trust in safe travelling, disposable income, and consumer behavior all potentially impacted in key ways, not to mention the status of airlines, hotels, and other key infrastructure. A return for hotels to their 2019 levels could take six years at least.[vi]
Current understanding is that isolation is the only way to properly contain the virus until there is a vaccine. But isolation means no events, which means the deaths of our jobs. If we relax isolation rules, we could possibly do some business, but relaxing the rules too soon (such as we are now) will mean another and even more painful shutdown.
In a nutshell, the tourism industry knows why it's in trouble, but now it doesn't have the resources or ability to plan for a recovery, particularly when your recovery may not be possible for five years or more, and you have no idea what recovery will look like.
Prior to the pandemic the bicycle tourism industry was already struggling with significant systemic issues. Stuck in the Harley Davidson stage of its life cycle and dependent on a shrinking and aging demographic, many events were struggling to make ends meet, or simply going out of business. Though we were beginning to see the need for systemic change, it was too little too late. The funeral pyre had already been built and COVID-19 was the torch that lit it on fire.
But it's not all doom and gloom! Despite all the odds there is hope, if you are willing to pay the price and sacrifice our traditional ways of planning events or marketing destinations by throwing them on the fire and letting them burn to ashes.
This is the part where I sign off. But stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, where we're going to look at some radical and inexpensive ways we can go outside the box to stay relevant, solvent, and do the great things we do for the world.
In the meantime, I suggest you tide yourself over with this video of red pandas playing in the snow.
[v] https://longwoods-intl.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/COVID-19%20Travel%20Sentiment%20Study%20Wave%204%20Highlights%20Final.pdf [vi] https://www.ft.com/content/7c902798-4d90-4206-9fd4-bafa154ef1e1