Your initial reaction to this title probably sheds light on your perspective on the tourism industry’s future. The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the years that triggered a significant change in the way we live.
Matthew and I in Valletta after the last tour on the 6th of March before suspending our schedule.
Being part of the industry, I feel the pain, disappointments and struggles that this year brought. It is not easy. When everything was hazy and misty in the early days of March, the team at Colour my Travel agreed to dedicate time to rethink, time to plan and time to despair. Consecutive (negative) milestones such as the closure of airports, lockdowns, restrictions and measures for the common good started to confirm that none of this would be temporary. The way forward was ours to choose, and this is how we figured it out.
Flight, Fight or Freeze?
When faced with stress, we psychologically evolved to pick one of these reactions. The pandemic provided the right dose of pressure that this traditional cash-cow industry needed to rethink its state of affairs. Those who are ill-prepared and half-hearted react to such a challenge with a quick phrase: “I’m Out”. That is Flight and the option that the resilient ones do not even see as an option.
On the other hand, you have the ones who stand up to be counted and march forward even when the way forward is misty and hazy. I can understand each of these two reactions. What worries me is the last option.
Freezing in front of such a situation is a reaction that some might sadly choose to take. Many have opted to freeze, sit aside, receive state aid and wait for it to pass. But when will all this pass?
I am sure that the government did not invest millions of Euros in support measures for business to freeze. More than anything, through Malta Enterprise, the government acted in examplar efficiency to execute these support measures. This efficiency was the proverbial matchstick light in pitch darkness that everyone was eagerly awaiting. While a good number of companies saw this as the impetus needed to fight on, one cannot nonetheless exclude the reality that many businesses have seen this financial assistance, such as the wage supplement, as an opportunity to wait out the crisis to just pass. However, we all know that it will not “just pass”.
For those choosing to freeze, all the government financial assistance is nothing short of morphine for business. When administered timely and adequately, morphine eases pain and increases the chances of survival. Everything has its cost, and morphine is also known to be dangerously addictive. I sincerely hope that this financial assistance will not become equally addictive to those who choose to freeze.
The assumption and hope in the vaccine restoring confidence are the foundation for the events to date. However, COVID-19 pressed the reset button of the tourism industry. The government did all it could do to date, and the dynamics of a free-market will take over when tourism restarts.
Those who opted for Flight will be gone, and those who opted to Fight will be there to do business and fetch the opportunities I outline below. Those who chose to Freeze and wait will sit aside and take their time to defrost.