Seismic change in urban tourism, now what?


To view the following full screen interactive presentation, move the mouse to the upper left corner of the infographic and click on the three-dot menu. Then select the full screen icon. At the bottom of the infographic you will see a navigation menu, indicating where you are. There are eight slides in all.

Where we come from

As we can see in the presentation, urban destinations around the world received a total of 190 million international travelers in 2017, triple than a decade ago, according to data from the World Travel Monitor survey, commissioned by the ITB fair in Berlin.

This volume of travel means that city trips became the number one type of vacation abroad in the world for the first time that year, ahead of sun and sand, the dominant segment of tourism for decades.

The causes of this success of cities have been analyzed in multiple reports and in general we can identify several factors accumulated in the last 25 years:

  • The liberalization of air transport in the European Union since 1994, leading to more competition, lower fares and new routes
  • New lifestyles and social trends, which turn city breaks into a consumer product more
  • A time of political stability and economic growth that favored consumption
  • The holiday fragmentation in shorter periods

Cities = inspiration

Cities have also become successful destinations because they are a source of inspiration for multiple types of travelers: young students, backpackers, groups of friends, couples on a romantic trip, business travelers, conference and convention goers, tourists from emerging economies in Asia and Latin America who want to discover Europe through cities …

In our country, domestic demand has also been seduced by cities. According to a study by Braintrust, in 2018 the city ousted the beach as the first destination for the Spanish.

And we can also see how cities are authentic magnets for the millennial generation, on the other hand, the segment most willing to resume its trips in the coming months, as the health situation improves.

High satisfaction destinations

Another reason for the success of cities as tourist destinations is the guarantee of satisfaction they offer to the traveler.

Although cities receive very different types of travelers depending on their budgets, needs, concerns and objectives, the cities of the 21st century have developed a very powerful offer (accommodation, activities, shopping, restaurants, leisure, museums, etc.) with the capacity to satisfy very wide segments of demand.

A demand that will be guided, in all cases, by its own nature: the human curiosity.

The people want discover new cultures in the broad sense of the word, different lifestyles, local gastronomy … And travelers will record all this in the videos and photos that they will share through social networks, in the opinions that they will upload to websites such as TripAdvisor, etc.

The year of the seismic change

And suddenly … Surely all of us who are part of the tourism sector will remember 2020 as one of the most intense years of our lives.

The shaking has been of such magnitude that we can speak of a seismic change, where the tectonic plates of tourism have been violently displaced.

In this way, a new normal has come into our lives. Just a year ago, images that we can see on slide 6 such as masks, disinfection gels, social distancing, etc., would hardly have told us anything, but today they are part of our day-to-day life … And the tourism sector.

The summer of the coronavirus

On slide 7, for example, we can see what the impact of the coronavirus crisis this summer has been on urban hotels in Spain.

Specifically, we are seeing the drops in hotel billing during the months of July and August compared to the same period in 2019.

They are dramatic falls, which have hit especially Barcelona and Madrid, and somewhat less medium-sized cities such as San Sebastián or Córdoba. Even so, the damage to the productive fabric, companies and employment has been terrible everywhere.

Recovery Itineraries

And now that? In general terms, the recovery of tourism will depend on multiple factors, both from the point of view of demand and supply, as well as the coordinated response to this crisis.

Key factors for recovery will be:

  • The security that destinations can offer
  • The confidence that customers have
  • The harmonized policies of the European Union in health matters and mobility of people
  • Promotions and offers that companies and destinations can launch to stimulate demand …

Y despite the fact that tomorrow we would have effective and available vaccines, many questions remain pending. When and how will governments lift travel restrictions? How quickly will the confidence of travelers be restored? What air capacity and at what prices will there be the day after?

To try to answer these and other questions, a panel of experts and tourism professionals have participated in the Hosteltur Conference on urban tourism in the post-COVID era. You can see all the news that this event has generated online by clicking here as well as interviews with the participants in the following links:

  • Marián Muro, general director of the Barcelona Tourism Consortium: Digitization and sustainability, post-COVID-19 urban tourism conditions
  • Daniel Martínez, director of Gijón Tourism: “Without companies there is no destination”, the value of public-private collaboration
  • Alfonso Pérez, Director of Sales and Marketing at Only You Hotels: workspaces to boost talent
  • Dolores Ordóñez, AnySolution technical director: Digitization will make a difference in companies and destinations
  • Pedro Homar, Managing Director of the Palma 365 Tourism Foundation: Sun and data, Palma’s new formula to face the COVID crisis