The New Normal in Business, Tourism & Overtourism

Are you running a small company or a freelance businesses you have grown from scratch and perfected over the years? Do you think there is good reason to believe you might be facing a highly-probable scenario where your costs over the next few months will stay more or less the same but your prospects for (just about any) revenues have just evaporated...overnight? Not that it's much of a consolation, but the only thing that appears to be certain at this stage is that you're one of many. The "new normal" is only about to start dawning on you in days and weeks to come and you'd better face it prepared. Innovation may have been the most overused buzzword for a very long time, but under the current circumstances, it's only those who have seriously started looking for how it could translate to their business that are likely to survive COVID19, without even coming close to a prospect of infection, in a literal sense, at least.
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Now that just about every industry is reevaluating its business model under the pressure of costs and involuntary shutdowns, even the very first questions that come to your mind will probably be enough to bring your levels of anxiety to 'almost unbearable'. Looking at things in the longer term, it appears to be true for entrepreneurs as much as for people employed by corporations, SMEs and even very small family businesses. Arguably, more so for the first category. Speaking of the long term, there can be little doubt now that some things are going to change: not only in the way you experience work but, quite possibly, the world around you.

Regardless of the actual proportions in weight for individual industries, hundreds of thousands of freelancers all over the world, in countries already affected by COVID19, have overnight woken up to a reality where their calendars for the first half of 2020 (at least), have just been wiped out by a force that has already proved mightier than the world's most powerful army and smaller than the smallest particle human eye can see.

Big questions looming large

Among the big questions of the day, the following seem to stand out?

  • How long is it going to last?
  • How many will be affected and how many will die?
  • When will we have an effective cure?
  • How will it impact the global economy and individual countries?
  • Now that Europe is officially referred to as the 'epicentre', when will individual states (esp. those most affected) finally start reporting declining figures?
  • When/Is it going to be possible to live a life as we knew it in 2019?

We are social creatures!

Quite possibly, the last question is in many ways the most important one for many, as it defines all those things that we hold dearest, often without even realising it, like staying close with others, socialising in pubs, cafes, at concerts, games, tournaments and countless other types of gatherings (as opposed to social distancing), going to schools/universities, attending conferences, going to cinemas and theatres, and, above all, meeting friends and family, without any fear that going to your parents every now and then for a family get-together may seriously jeopardise their health (or life itself!).

On the positive side

Not that I can offer much substance at this point to quantify this claim, but something tells me things will change in peoples' minds and hearts after COVID19, if and when we finally reach that stage. Not every important thing will change for the better and not in everyone's heart and mind, of course. But enough, perhaps, to make us a little more attentive to the biggest questions of our times: those that truly define who we are and how we treat the planet we call home, let alone everyone around us. One can only hope that a massive improvement in the way businesses and corporations harness remote work and learn to be truly agile whenever required is the least important example of change for the better after COVID 19.

Far more importantly, facing a prospect that has the power to change life so drastically and threaten our most valued freedoms, habits and pastimes, is in many ways also an opportunity, if only to make us think much deeper and, paradoxically, develop the very social skills that have eluded us for so long, simply because, like with so much else in life, we have been so busy taking our freedoms, our habits, our pastimes, and indeed, our health and safety, for granted.

To paraphrase Churchill...

It's been a while since the last time when something so small changed so much in the lives of so many, in such a vast number of ways, countries, cities, towns and locations.

Only a few months ago, in the summer and autumn 2019, a lot of countries and, more specifically, tourist destinations, complained about having too many tourists (overtourism), not only in the so-called high season, but throughout the year, and things becoming far too unmanageable and in many unpleasant. Not to mention the huge impact on historical patterns of residential life and key municipal functions these locations were accustomed to, sometimes for centuries before the tsunami of global tourism hit really hard.

The old names of a new phenomenon

While places like Venice, Dubrovnik, Barcelona or Amsterdam have long "enjoyed" this reputation, the city I live in (Kraków, Poland) only recently started accelerating up this path, with about 13 million tourists visiting this much-loved UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1978) in one year and ever more positive buzz being published about it in international press, travel blogs, vlogs and tourist guides.

Which makes me wonder: Are we going to see Kraków like this (photo below) any time soon, or, are we entering an era for the tourism industry where much will need to be rewritten and remodelled before the world of travelling as we know it is back on its feet?

One thing looks almost certain: the figurative feet in question will have to be much more agile, resilient and smart from now on, when it comes to adapting to radically changing conditions and anticipating circumstances where disruptive innovations will no longer be just a catch phrase but, quite simply, the need of the hour.



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