It wasn’t so long ago — only last year, in fact — that the big worry in the travel and leisure industry was the spreading anger about over-tourism that led to residents’ revolts in many of Europe’s holiday honeypots. In Barcelona, on Spain’s Balearic islands, and in Venice, visitors piling from planes and the airports and the cruise liners were being told by the locals to “go home”.
Short-term rentals were inflating property prices, forcing residents to move out of their historic city and town centres, changing irreparably the nature of neighbourhoods they no longer felt belonged to them. Regional governments were responding with tourist taxes to help pay for the litter-clearing and policing costs generated by unsustainable tourism.
What a difference days of plague make. The industry has all but vanished, and with it, for the time being, many of the 75m jobs it supported across the world and much of the €1.8 trillion it contributed to the global economy. The industry will in time recover — travel is wired in to the human DNA — but its “new normal” must be one that’s manifestly different from the old one that was demonstrably wrecking the treasures increasingly unwelcome visitors were crowding in to enjoy.