The tourism industry is diverse, crisis-tested and innovative – and after more than two years of the pandemic, it’s back on the up. At the same time, however, it is facing no shortage of challenges, such as climate change, digitalisation and the resilience of the industry, and in future, it will be essential for the travel industry to be viewed in all of its complexity – particularly by politicians. It is time for tourism policy to finally be understood from a cross-sectoral perspective, with the creation of a coordinated framework of conditions at all levels and the introduction of regulation with a sense of proportion.
Despite long being well-versed in handling crises, the travel sector has been and remains particularly affected by COVID-19. Following the efforts to repatriate citizens stranded in locations around the globe, the constant ups and downs of the pandemic have placed an enormous strain on the industry. At DER Touristik we are proud and grateful to be part of the REWE Group, which, as a cooperative enterprise comprising 1,800 independent retailers, has served as a strong partner for us. For example, unlike other industry participants, we have been able to manage without government assistance – except for short-time working allowances which we too found unavoidable during the pandemic.
After two years, consumers have regained their almost insatiable urge to travel again, and we are once more at pre-crisis levels. However, this does not mean that companies and politicians can sit back and relax. Resilience must be bolstered. And we need a plan for the autumn and winter. We have to develop better strategies to get ahead of the next wave as an emergency stop involving the closure of entire industries can no longer be our strategy of choice going forward.
We must also act, not react, when it comes to climate protection. This should be clear to both the travel industry and politicians. There is no alternative to the climate transformation. As a tourism company, we must drive this transformation more consistently and more innovatively – this is part of our responsibility. However, the political conditions must be right if we are to make progress in this area. Following the difficult years of the coronavirus, we will only achieve the necessary momentum with funding instruments and financial incentives.
But climate change is a global challenge and should be approached as such. For this reason, it requires international political solutions. Those living in the affected areas must be involved in the process as well so that effective solutions can be developed and implemented. After all, it is easy (or at least easier) for Germans to talk about climate protection from the comfort of their living room, compared with those in the regions that are affected by climate change. The travel industry has the potential to serve as a role model and to set an example around the world on the issue of sustainability, while also contributing to greater tolerance and openness.