Resources for Tourism Recovery

The DSC’s Cultural Heritage Editor, Lucy Matthews, has been scouring the Internet for information that might help destinations plan a reboot as the pandemic recedes. Here’s what she found – from WTTC, UNWTO, and, interestingly, the U.S. state of Maryland.

Better Stewardship – a Pandemic Recovery Trend

It’s no trade secret that the tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Travel & Tourism: Economic Impact 2021 report, the industry experienced a dramatic decline from a total GDP contribution of 10.4% in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020, and job numbers fell from 334 million (2019) to 272 million (2020).

The WTTC report from September 2020, “To Recovery & Beyond: The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19,” suggests a variety of trends for the industry’s recovery, including that “the world has been re-invigorated to tackle social, environmental, and institutional sustainability” and the moment is right for the tourism industry to “enact meaningful changes that will transform the world and make a lasting difference for future generations.”

The report highlights the importance of destination preparedness, and that “local tourism councils” can “help boost destination stewardship as local communities drive action for preservation of cultural and natural assets.”

This was also a theme coming out of the late September 2020 virtual discussion, “Culture, Tourism and COVID-19: Recovery, Resiliency and Rejuvenation,” arranged by UNESCO with IUCN, ICOMOS, and ICCROM, with speakers advocating “a shift towards tourism that regenerates destinations and provides economic, social and environmental benefits.”

These statements echo that this moment could be what the Destination Stewardship Center’s (DSC) Jonathan Tourtellot called “A Destination Management Opportunity.” A moment to take stock of what tourism has been and what we would like it to be in the future.

In March 2021, the Future of Tourism Coalition (comprising the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), DSC, Green Destinations, Sustainable Travel International, Tourism Cares, and the Travel Foundation) hosted the opening webinar of its “Reset Tourism” series with a session led by CREST and DSC on “Destination Stewardship and Stakeholder Engagement.” (See the story in the Spring 2021 issue of the Destination Stewardship Report). The presentation advocates for looking holistically at destinations for better tourism management. The management approach, recommendations from the session about how to set up a destination stewardship council, and on-the-ground expertise from an esteemed panel of destination representatives provide a regenerative blueprint for destinations coming out of the pandemic. Other webinars in the series led by other Coalition organizations include “Measuring Tourism’s Impacts and Success,” and “Local and Sustainable Supply Chains.” (See accompanying story in this issue of the Destination Stewardship Report).

Another good resource is “How Can Destinations Resume Tourism After the Pandemic, While Ensuring Sustainability?” from The Place Brand Observer in partnership with the Sustainability Leaders Project and a variety of contributors from August 2020. Florian Kaefer, editor of The Place Brand Observer, wrote about the white paper in “After Covid, 10 Ways for Destinations To Manage Tourism Better” in DSC’s Autumn 2020 Destination Stewardship Report. The paper looks not only at pandemic recovery but also at how destinations can be “resilient in the face of future crises.” Adding that “this is the moment where success will depend on courage, and the power of imagination of a ‘different’ destination – one with greater local participation, and a smaller ecological footprint.”

Destination stewardship should be a key element of tourism’s recovery, with potential to maximize the benefits for all, from the tourists to the communities, environment, heritage, industry, and governments. The pandemic has impacted us all – let’s ensure that the solutions do too.

Recovery Resources

A variety of resources that can help track the industry’s progress.

WTTC Resources

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has developed sector-specific protocols for travel safety and recovery (such as for hospitality, outdoor shopping, aviation, tour operators, and more). These protocols, while from May 2020, still provide helpful avenues to navigate resiliency for the sector from the pandemic and future crises.

WTTC also developed a Safe Travels Stamp for public and private sector stakeholders that are reaching WTTC’s global health and safety standards. The idea is that the stamp provides a sort of seal of approval of health measures being taken, thus providing peace of mind for the traveler. The WTTC website has a map of what destinations have received the stamp, delineated by country or sub region.

The WTTC Travel Demand Recovery Dashboard shows both a regional and segment overview of Google travel searches, as well as movement and booking behaviors. There are also downloadable global and regional recovery scenarios from November 2020.

There is also information about Government COVID-19 Policies and the G20 Recovery Plan.

The One in 330 Million initiative shares the stories of the people involved in the tourism industry, including the impacts of the pandemic on their livelihoods.

UNWTO Resources

The UNWTO Tourism Data Dashboard includes:

  • UNWTO/IATA Destination Tracker. Search by country to see Covid percent positivity rates, vaccination rates, air travel and country restrictions, and more.
  • UNWTO Tourism Recovery Tracker. See information overall, by region, destination etc., in terms of tourism arrivals, travel restrictions, accommodation, air travel, and more.
  • International Tourism and COVID-19. See pandemic impacts on tourism on a global, regional, or country scale, including arrivals, monthly and YTD change, vulnerability of destination, and impact assessment.

Additional resources

Particularly for US-related resources, I recommend also taking a look at the Maryland Office of Tourism Development’s Covid-19 Travel and Tourism Research Resources. When I started searching for industry recovery resources, I found Maryland’s list to be relatively robust from an American perspective, and some resources may also be useful for other markets. A selection:

What other tourism resources have you found useful for pandemic recovery? Leave a comment below.

After Covid, 10 Ways for Destinations To Manage Tourism Better

? Destination Stewardship Report – Autumn 2020 ?

For destinations, a return to business as it was before Covid-19 will be difficult and often not advisable, yet most destinations seem to be trying to do just that. Florian Kaefer, editor of The Place Brand Observer, presents a new, free, multi-expert white paper offering 10 better ideas. If your community, government, association, or DMO is seeking to do a tourism reset, here’s how to get started.

A White Paper for a More Robust Recovery

At The Place Brand Observer, (in partnership with the Sustainability Leaders Project) we have published a white paper to help you future-proof your destination – city or region. We asked leading consultants, managers and researchers to share their suggestions on how to resume tourism after the pandemic, taking into consideration the challenges and pitfalls that destination managers and marketers will face. The result is our paper, ‘How Can Destinations Resume Tourism After the Pandemic, While Ensuring Sustainability?’

After several months of lockdown, uncertainties, political pressure, economic and social losses – but also inspiring stories of nature renaissance, solidarity and awareness, we have (hopefully) learnt a valuable lesson or two, as human beings.

The travel industry is among the most affected by the pandemic. At the same time, the visitor economy is an essential ingredient for the economic recovery of many destinations. That means much pressure on destination managers and marketers to resume tourist flows as soon as possible, and to get back to business just as it was before Covid-19. However, the expectations and needs of customers and communities may have changed post-pandemic, together with external market conditions and bigger picture concerns such as tourism sustainability and the climate emergency.

‘Never waste a good crisis’ – and indeed, destination managers and developers have an unprecedented opportunity right now to rethink tourism and to come up with ways to make it more sustainable and resilient in the face of future crises. Our white paper presents ten approaches for doing that.

Some of them are strategic, such as elevating sense of place and thinking of the visitor as a temporary citizen. Others are tactical acts such as linking tax incentives and public rescue funds to business sustainability. These all need evaluation by new measures of effectiveness – community ambition, investment, and student attraction among others.

There is always a lot of pressure on destination marketers. Their success and failure are nearly always determined by numbers. If that continues to be the most important aspect of the job of a destination marketer, there’s no chance for sustainability’.         —Todd Babiak, CEO, Brand Tasmania

In a nutshell, destination branding and tourism marketing must be serious about the challenges places will face in opening up again. We need to be accurate, measured, realistic and honest in our assessments of what is safe to do and to offer. And we need to communicate these requirements proactively.

This is the moment where success will depend on courage, and the power of imagination of a ‘different’ destination —one with greater local participation, and a smaller ecological footprint. Have a clear idea of the ‘why’. What do you (your community) want from the visitor economy? Answer this question as detailed as possible — looking beyond outworn (and often untested) assumptions of job creation and income for the host community.

The first step to lasting recovery is to figure out what a community really needs and wants (and what it does not want), from the visitor economy. Once the ‘why’ is clear, you’ll find the ‘how’ and ‘what’ much easier to write down and implement.

With thanks to our expert panel at The Place Brand Observer and the Sustainability Leaders Project for sharing their thoughts, we invite you to download the free white paper here. I hope you find it useful and inspiring! If you have feedback or questions, contact me by email at For more about the panel and expert advice on other ‘hot’ topics linked to destination branding and sustainability, visit

Florian Kaefer, PhD is the founder and editor of The Place Brand Observer and the Sustainability Leaders Project. Based in Switzerland, he has been an observer of destination branding practice and tourism sustainability for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.