As our changing world enters into an adjustment phase, the opportunity for travel to be a force for good is greater than ever.
However, the impact of Covid-19 on tourism is undoubtedly complex.
Depending on where, when and how travel restrictions are lifted, international tourist numbers could fall by between 60% and 80% this year.
As we look ahead, the global tourism decline has already taken a toll on national economies.
Without a strong tourism sector, millions of jobs and the wellbeing of communities around the world are at risk; a world without tourism has put the spotlight on the fact that the world needs tourism.
But as the sector re-emerges, we must not forget the pre-Covid challenges, with local people feeling increasingly alienated from the benefits of tourism, as well as the pressures of climate change and tourism’s contribution to it.
The world needs well-managed, responsible tourism, which is inclusive of – and benefits – host communities, while also protecting a destination’s cultural and natural heritage.
Consumer research tells us responsible travel is a trend that’s here to stay. Travellers are looking to connect to a place and its people, contribute to conservation initiatives and support local enterprises.
The sector is well positioned to integrate the need for sustainable livelihoods in many places around the world with the growing desire for a "slower", more connected approach to travel.
What’s more, the reality is that the immediate recovery will be driven by local and regional travel.
In this context, the opportunity for the travel and tourism industry is huge. Destinations and brands can foster these positive connections in a number of ways, ensuring tourism really is a force for good.
Firstly, by involving local people in decisions which affect their lives – tourism has the potential to enhance the wellbeing of host communities, improve relationships between visitors and hosts, and build local pride of place.
This invitation from locals welcoming travellers to experience their communities is more important than ever before.
Secondly, by showcasing opportunities for "slow travel" through education and compelling storytelling.
Providing information on local products, experiences and attractions will encourage carefully considered travel decisions and fulfil consumer demand for responsible options.
Thirdly, by focusing on the long-term. While the immediate priority for many destinations has been to open up and welcome tourists back, the long-term social and environmental benefits need to be central to tourism strategies.
Re-growth will only be sustainable and resilient if it is genuinely inclusive. As destination stewards, Hills Balfour has a responsibility to create a delicate balance in messaging to both entice and educate travellers, empowering them to make more conscious and positively impactful travel decisions.
It is well documented that immersing ourselves in a different way of life and exposing ourselves to new cultures encourages personal growth and develops our compassion for others.
There is no doubt that travel is a huge driver of human understanding.
Managed the right way, tourism has, now more than ever, the opportunity to provide tangible long-term benefits for locals and visitors alike.
Caroline Moultrie is managing director of travel and tourism marketing agency MMGY Hills Balfour.