Without any spontaneity and with more emphasis on the countryside is how Michael Shichor, publisher of the popular Michael's Guide travel guide books, sees vacations in the post-Covid period. "In the near future, holidaymakers won't just travel wherever they want but rather to where it is allowed. The dramatic change in tourism will be that spontaneity is over and that all elements of a trip will need to be carefully planned in advance."
He said, "It won't even be possible to fly spontaneously because you have to arrange a Covid test. The same holds for going to a restaurant, museum or any place else. It's not only coordinating the day of a visit but even the hour of the visit. The age of being able to say that today I fancy going to the Louvre is over. Everything has to be organized in advance and slotted into a timetable."
Shichor reminds us that even before the Covid pandemic tourist sites were overcrowded, like the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower and booking in advance had been adopted because of restricted quotas for visitors. Disney's amusement parks, for example, are expected to reopen with only 10%-15% capacity and every visit must be booked in advance."
How will admission charges be impacted by Covid?
"Over time prices have been going up because procedures make costs more expensive. When demand outstrips supply because the quota of visitors is restricted, the price will rise and the calculations also change. If an amusement park calculates that each visitor will pay $10 admission and $20 on ice cream and souvenirs, today the calculation is different. Instead of relying on the extras, they'll rely on the admission charge."
"A park that allowed in 1,000 people today, at a calculation of $30 per person will get $30,000. Now the park can only allow in 100 people and it cannot survive on $3,000 income per day. Combined tickets for several attractions will also change with less places and a model of less discounts."
"It'll take time to adopt the new work procedures. There's a natural delay but in the end the reality will dictate owners to throw the old business work plans into the garbage, and form a new work model. I've no doubt that many of these leisure facilities will also shut down."
On the other hand disposable income has been hit, so if places put up prices, they'll lose guests.
"Not only the operators will create a new reality, so will the visitors. They'll be happy to pay more and be in a place that is less crowded. On the other hand, instead of travelling three times a year, a family will arrange one vacation abroad, which is more organized."
"This has an advantage. In this way tourist will know ahead of time how much the trip really costs. In the past people take into account the cost of flights and accommodation, but now that everything is booked in advance, it will be possible to know the overall cost, because this will bring in new models that will include building itineraries according to a budget."
"These models will seep down to the management of the sites themselves. Since spontaneity will become irrelevant, the ticket offices at the Louvre will be covered over with plants. Everything will become automatic. These are processes that began before Covid such as in hotels where instead of encountering the receptionist in the lobby there was an automatic check-in. The entire mechanism will change and for hotels this will save staffing costs. Attractions will also look different with opening hours lengthened and new models in every field."
Bed & Breakfast instead of a hotel
Shichor decided to write travel guides 43 years ago. "I was seventeen and a half and had just completed my first long trip to the US, Canada and Mexico. While I was there I decided that this was what I wanted to do. After the army I travelled in Latin America for 18 months and I developed the concept."
"I thought that it would be a side business and I enrolled to study law but I was drawn to this world. I wrote my first guide when I was 23, in English, 932 pages that was mainly articles with information. It was then translated to Hebrew. I have since written 50 books that have been translated into 13 languages.
"The largest editions in terms of sales with hundreds of thousands of books have been in Czech. Today these remains 12 books of the most popular destinations such as Paris, London and Rome. Every book is written from the viewpoint of the tourist. For example, the guide to Jerusalem has sold the most books, more than 1.25 million copies, mostly in Hebrew. In the English edition, I don't recommend visiting Ammunition Hill, whereas it is recommended in the Hebrew guide."
"In the London guide in Hebrew, there is a huge chapter on shopping but in French it isn't there. From a publisher, I became a content provider. In 1995, I issued my first travel guides in disc form in all sorts of languages and today the guides are adapted to changing digital needs."
With the wisdom of the crowd on the Internet, who needs a travel guide?
"My customer is Mrs. Cohen from Hadera who travels to Rome and wants me to tell her what to do efficiently so that I will give her a holistic experience with components that join up with each other. There are three things that any trip never has enough of: time, effort and money. So in building guides the overall concept is to build itineraries that are time efficient, and save effort (downhill instead of uphill) and save money (visiting nearby attractions with discount tickets)."
Shichor expects that in the short term tourists will prefer sites in nature to cities. "People will prefer an isolated country lodge to a 300-room hotel. But in the long-term people will return to city destinations after they see that even the places were packed in the past have less people."
"The line to see the Mona Lisa will look different - people won't crowd around it but there will be a moving line like the museum with the crown jewels in London. Ultimately there will be a balance. Cities that suffered from over-tourism like Venice and Barcelona can tag this period in the history books."
The $64,000 question is when will tourism return to its pre-Covid levels. Shichor responds, "Quicker than you think. Historically, people travelled out of combination of economics and intellectual curiosity. After every crisis, these motivations revived tourism. It's like a diet. You lose 10 kilograms and then you gain 12."
"Since the Second World War, tourism has known how to rebound and quickly come back stronger. It happened after the twin-towers tragedy in 2001, when they said people would stop traveling because of the security checks, which take hours before each flight, but the terror attack gave a push to the security industry in tourism and people returned to flying."
"This crisis is different because it has harmed young people less which makes it seem less threatening. A year has gone by and we haven't finished with Covid and it doesn't look to me like it will end. We're not talking about an event with an expiry date, and so tourism is developing measures that will allow us to be ready for the outbreak of a virus."
"We'll return to the 2019 numbers faster than it seems to us. Not because we would have gotten over Covid - even though the vaccinations will reduce the damage together with social distancing practices - but because we will learn to live with viruses around us and we will develop habits both individually and as a society. In 2019, 10.5% of global GDP came from tourism. In Greece it's 20% and it's more in some countries. In economies that depend on tourism, they will be open to receiving tourists sooner."
There are countries that think that domestic tourism can help the industry recover
"Unfortunately in Israel domestic tourism is the default option for most Israelis. It's related to price and the level of service. As soon as the skies reopen, people will travel abroad. We'll see less weekend getaways because before the flight they'll need to do a Covid test and another after returning and it's expensive and awkward. Vacations will happen less frequently but they will be longer."
Where was your last trip to and where will you fly to as soon as the skies are open?
"I was in Northern Greece in October and I flew back on the last plane into Israel. My next destination will be London and then I'll fly to an island at the end of the world, perhaps Polynesia."
Age 61 from Tel Aviv, divorced with three children - has written 50 Shichor guides for trips around the world, which have been translated into 13 languages - the 12 most popular guides include London, Paris and Rome - the best selling guide is for Jerusalem.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 11, 2021
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