My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinon)
As we turn the page into 2022, many tourism destinations face new realities. From 2008 through 2019, tourism destinations had a very different experience. According to Visit California, travel spending increased 46% from $98.7 billion to $145 Billion and annual increases of 4.4%. This trend could be found in tourism destinations across the country. Despite this impressive past in travel spending, there are new realities. COVID -19 impact on tourism acted to accelerate trends that were in some cases already underway and in other cases have emerged during the pandemic. Destination realities include the following:
•Traffic, crowding, and congestion – This destination reality predates COVID. Still, it has been exacerbated in many destinations as people from city areas seek to distance themselves by visiting outdoor destinations. The traffic and congestion experienced by destinations in many places have reached a tipping point and significant pushback from residents.
•Climate change- This destination realty also predates COVID and has impacted many destinations that are impacted by both summer and winter weather changes. Perhaps the most significant impact has been fire season, in which destinations have been impacted by both fires and smoke at levels never seen before. We in South Shore have first-hand experience with the Caldor fire, but during that time, there were as many as eight-six significant fires across the west.
•Housing affordability- This reality, along with wages, has been the most publicized as of late. There is not enough housing for a workforce needed to support tourism economies, and the solutions are expensive and not easy. The existing long-term supply of affordable rental housing in many destinations has been severely reduced. Many have been converted to vacation rental houses or sold to those moving to outdoor destinations. This has forced rents t and housing prices to skyrocket. Driving more employees away from tourism jobs and destinations.
•Wages- Along with housing affordability, this realty has become significant as more and more employees have walked away from hospitality employment for other options. Last summer, a Bloomberg Study indicated that over 40% in the industry indicated they would never come back to the industry. In many ways, the new reality is the fault of the hospitality industry that did very well during the past decade and passed very little to front-line workers. The growth in salary and benefits for employees compared to the growth in stock price that many companies have experienced is staggering. The tourism and hospitality industry did themselves no favors when the eliminated jobs during the pandemic.
•Environmental impact- As more and more visitors have sought outdoor experiences to escape from city Covid restrictions; outdoor destinations have had to deal with the environmental impacts that some of these visitors have created. Trash, parking, and often disregarding local community culture have created a strong anti-visitor backlash in some places.
•COVID 19 Coexistence- Perhaps the most disturbing reality is settling into realizing that COVID may not be going ways, and the best we can do is try to manage a coexistance with the virus.
•A fractured country-This is one of the most interesting realities we find today. It is the realization that the country and many destinations are fractured along political lines. Red state and blue states and red destinations and blue destinations. Even within California, the split is real one only needs to look at the difference between Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz, both beautiful ocean locations but worlds apart politically, and consumers know the difference.
As South Shore looks ahead to 2022 these are the realities we face. In many cases very challenging It used to be so simple years ago. Just open up for business and keep the roads clear. Its not that wany anymore.
It is a Wrap
The December snowstorms were welcome and might have been a hint for some normalcy in winter weather, but since then nothing. Given the changing dynamics of everything we are experiencing its become more evident that adaptability as a community and as individuals may be one of the most important characteristics moving forward.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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