Tourism has certainly been one of the sectors that were most affected by the consequences of the pandemic. The sudden halt to traveling and the long lockdowns determined a market paralysis which had an immediate negative effect on the industry. However, the long-term consequences of this systemic shock are just beginning to emerge.
As tourism gradually recovers globally, we are starting to see that the way people travel, the experiences they look for and, consequently, the services they demand have changed for good. While, on the one hand, these new trends pose a great challenge on tourism players, this paradigm shift is also an opportunity for companies to redefine their offer, reach out to new customers and segments, and redefine their market and societal role.
New Trends Driving the Tourism Demand
In the current landscape, people have become more mindful of their travel choices, and this has had a visible impact on their expectations and behaviour as consumers. In a nutshell, safety, quest for meaning and sustainability are the three key drivers defining travellers’ renewed demand.
First of all, health safety is a key requirement of both consumers and destinations. Travellers not only rely on tourism professionals to be granted a safe experience, but they also look for guidance to comply with the complex travel regulations both in their place of origin and in their destinations. Consequently, tourism players must adapt their offer to guide customers in their choice and in the preparation phase and work alongside public authorities to ensure that safety requirements are met throughout the entire journey.
Furthermore, traveling has become less common—this entails that every trip must be unique. As they avoid crowded places and mainstream tourist spots, travellers are more and more in search of tailored, personalised and enriching experiences. Mass tourism is becoming less appealing for tourists, who tend to privilege destinations off the beaten path, and want to discover unexpected destinations, often close to home.
Finally, as part of tourists’ search for meaning, the social, economic, and environmental implications of travel choices are of the utmost importance. Sustainability has become a key element in determining people’s travel choices, and especially younger travellers are turning to sustainable tourism. Due to an increasing pressure from both customers and public authorities, tourism players are held accountable for their businesses’ social and environmental impact.
Costa Cruises: Proposing a New Way of Cruise Travel
In order to meet—and in some cases anticipate—these emerging trends, some leading tourism players are getting ahead, doubling down on efforts to deliver on travellers’ evolving wants and needs.
An interesting example of such strategic shift is embodied by APCO client Costa Cruises, the largest cruise company in Europe and one of Europe’s leading tour operators.
To restart operations in full safety, in 2020 the company has developed the Costa Safety Protocol—a cutting edge set of operational measures to allow safe cruise travel, developed with the help of a panel of scientific experts and in close cooperation with public authorities.
In October 2021, Costa announced a full rebranding, with a new visual identity and a completely renewed offer entailing a whole new way of travelling by sea. Costa’s new concept is based on enabling guests to explore destinations through unique experiences, both on board and ashore. To build these experiences, the company has focused on three key areas: cuisine, tours and sustainability.
To step up its culinary offer, Costa collaborated with internationally renowned chefs to design “Destination Dishes,” interpreting the traditions and flavours of the places guests will be visiting the following day, allowing passengers to start exploring the destinations even before they reach them.
The itineraries have also been redesigned to accommodate longer stopovers in ports, giving guests whole days to explore their destinations, to get a deeper sense of the local culture and traditions, while generating more value for local communities.
Beyond the rebranding and renewal of the commercial offer, Costa’s positioning is underpinned by a long-term sustainability strategy, entailing investments in R&D to improve the environmental footprint of the fleet and lead responsible innovation in the sector, and a “Manifesto for a value-driven, sustainable and inclusive tourism,” a decalogue outlining the company’s commitment to local communities, which will guide Costa’s future actions and outreach to stakeholders.
Takeaways to Navigate the New Tourism Landscape
Cases like Costa Cruises clearly show that to maintain market position and better align to travellers’ and societal needs, tourism companies need to:
- Proactively address new trends, as competition in the travel industry can no longer focus on a battle of prices. With the evolution of the travel experience triggered by the pandemic and travellers becoming more conscious and demanding, companies must innovate and rethink their product offer, enhance customer support and provide more personalized services.
- Develop a comprehensive and effective storytelling to build understanding around the company, distinguish its offer from competitors and create involvement around the
- Back any rebranding or new commercial endeavour with a coherent and credible corporate positioning to emphasize the brand’s distinctive traits and values, and create meaningful engagement with wider groups of stakeholders, beyond just consumers. This has become inevitable for corporations to redefine their future as business and societal actors.