An increasing number of government departments and DMOs (Destination Management Organizations) across the globe are slowly shifting their attention away from mass tourism. They are instead focusing on higher value individuals who can add significant value to a destination and are likely to act more responsibly when visiting. However, governments and DMOs must be careful not to discourage less affluent tourists from visiting, as they often acted as the foundation of many destinations’ long-term success before the pandemic.

Downtime has allowed destinations to re-evaluate tourism strategies

Many global destinations that have been historically reliant on inbound travel to support their tourism sectors have used the downtime caused by Covid-19 to re-evaluate tourism strategies and assess long-standing issues that may have been prevailing before the pandemic. A common conclusion among destinations that have had past issues with overtourism is that they need to focus on a more responsible and potentially higher value type of visitor. This visitor does more than traveling to mainstream tourist attractions and is likely to visit less popular areas of a destination, which will help to spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly around a destination.

The Prague tourist agency, said the Czech capital wants a ‘different type of visitor’ and the Barcelona councilor responsible for tourism, said: ‘they don’t want more tourists, they want more visitors.’ New Zealand’s new tourism minister – Stuart Nash, outlined his new goal to target the global 1% as visitors in the post-pandemic market, rather than hordes of backpackers who offer significantly less in terms of value and have been known in some cases to behave irresponsibly.

A common theme is developing among destinations: they now want to attract a visitor type that will act more responsibly during a trip and help the destination to work towards sustainability goals. This could be through spending money that will not be subject to economic leakage, not acting in an anti-social way during their trip or reading up on local laws and culture in the pre-trip stage.

Destinations must not entirely focus marketing efforts away from mass tourists

Mass tourism is created by every day tourists in average income bands that will fly with LCCs (Low Cost Carriers) and will seek to stay in budget accommodation such as some Airbnb listings, which has created issues in its own right for locals, such as house price inflation and noise pollution. However, these tourists cannot be ignored by destinations that are now looking to focus on higher-value tourists, as they are the largest segment of the visitor base for many destinations and will continue to be so.

As well as focusing on more responsible, higher-value visitors, destinations need to accept that mass tourists will be a vital part of recovery and strategies need to be devised as to how the maximum amount of value can be extracted from these tourists, whilst minimizing the negative impacts they can create socially, environmentally and economically.