“With the dynamic nature of tourism, there are many opportunities to adapt and recover in the face of adversity—economically, socially, environmentally and even politically,” noted Hannah Messerli, The Dwight D. Eisenhower Research Professor of Tourism Policy Chair of the International Institute for Tourism Studies.
Messerli recently moderated the 2016 Fall Colloquium: Resilience in Tourism, organized by the International Institute of Tourism Studies and Tourism for Tomorrow. Discussions focused on the importance of resilience in the face of challenges including natural resource depletion, political turmoil and the changing habits of tourists. Keynote speaker Kelly Craighead, Executive Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, was joined by Norie Quintos, Editor at Large, National Geographic Travel Media; Neil Ardeshna, Senior Director of Business Consulting, Marriott International; Carla Portalanza, Cultural and Press Attaché, Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, D.C.
Neil Ardeshna, whose team is charged with leading strategic, enterprise-wide initiatives for Marriott’s 6,000 hotels and 500,000 associates, described how the global hospitality company has built corporate resilience by diversifying its footprint across over 110 countries and by offering 30 brands that can ensure almost any traveler can find a hotel that matches their preferences and price point. Locally, Marriott hotels are both influencing and influenced by their local economies, policies, and cultures in a number of ways…
• Marriott hotel owners, general managers, and local business councils work with local governments and businesses to help ensure local tourism is resilient
• Hotels adjust rates to balance supply and demand. If there is a shift in any given market, room rates can be adjusted to help maintain demand at a hotel, which directly helps to buoy tourism in that city.
• Marriott is constantly driving the development and adoption of innovative tools to help predict demand and react to any demand spikes or dips
Ardeshna also described how Marriott is always responding to long-term consumer trends. Rather than segmenting travelers purely on traditional demographics, for example, they instead work to focus on the traveler experience. “Whether it’s for business or pleasure, we want to make sure that travel is something people look forward to.”
Communications consultant Norie Quintos, who advises destinations and travel companies on how to effectively tell their unique stories, focused on the importance of the media. “Destinations that want coverage need to adapt and change,” explained Quintos. “The tools are affordable and now in everyone’s hands.” She cited examples of initiatives including Conversations with the Earth, a website that relies on participatory journalism and serves as a platform to allow how indigenous communities to share information on their strategies for adapting to climate change.
She also discussed strategies for engaging the media post disasters. “We know that the longer sustainable tourism lags after a natural disaster, the more damage is done to the social fabric of a place and its economic well being,” said Quintos. She described that because positive, where-to-go stories are the bread and butter for travel media, travel reporters tend to shy away from coverage of a destination following a disaster. She suggested that destinations strategically pitch journalists when they’re ready for coverage. “Focusing on the return of a destination following a disaster is always a great angle,” remarked Quintos.