Released on July 22, the European Travel Commission’s report investigated how European National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) have been evolving over the past decade (2008-2021) to provide insights and recommendations for achieving sustainable tourism development.
1. ETC’s report
Since 2008, the tourism environment has deeply changed. According to the ETC’s report, the major drivers for change include significant transformations in government policies and the challenge of climate change and sustainability. Plus, digital innovation, financial crisis, terrorism, and, ultimately, the Covid-19 pandemic have radically transformed tourism and the way NTOs have evolved to cope with it.
#Tourism is in a critical period of transition.— European Travel Commission (@ETC_Corporate) July 22, 2021
📘 ETC has released a new report which explores #NTOs evolution over the past decade and provides forward-looking insights and recommendations for achieving #sustainable tourism development.
➡️ https://t.co/fgTXv1cwgW pic.twitter.com/XkemX2iH73
2. Data and digital innovation
Data and digital innovation are likely to be the biggest game-changers for the tourism environment reflecting an ever-globalized world. However, the public sector has been relatively slow to adapt to the challenges and opportunities of full digital transformation, ETC’s report finds.
Between 2011 and 2014, NTOs seized the potential of e-marketing, including the use of social media, providing the most cost-effective way to reach consumers. This resulted in a shift in KPIs away from traditional media towards digital, ETC’s report concluded.
Moreover, web analytics on the use of NTO websites became increasingly important in measuring marketing success.
“There is a need for increased awareness and understanding of the issues and for the digital skills gap within NTOs to be addressed,” states the report highlighting examples of good progress in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and Portugal.
ETC’s report recommended NTOs, as a “starting point”, to prepare and implement a detailed plan for digital transformation.
3. Social factors
Social elements also play a key role in disrupting the tourism sector, particularly, unfavorable economic situations, terrorism or health crises.
Following the financial crisis of 2008, or the several terror attacks that hit Europe, the number of tourists decreased. As a result, NTOs often received increased budget and responsibility for promotion and recovery campaigns during or following a crisis.
A case in point, after the attacks in Paris in November 2015, the shortfall of revenues in the tourism sector amounted to at least €2bn in the period 2015-2017.
With the arrival of Covid-19, new policy and regulatory measures were introduced — testing, quarantine, quarantine certificates, border control, travel corridors — and there was an identifiable lack of coordination across Europe.
ETC’s report makes the case for NTOs to start “building back better” following the pandemic towards increased engagement in sustainability, digital transition, and destination management. According to the report, European destinations recorded declines in tourist arrivals between 51%-85% in 2020, with 1 in 3 destinations posting declines ranging from 70% to 79%.
However, domestic tourism proved relatively resilient and is the sector that is expected to rebound first post Covid-19.
The report also sets out “The ETC Vision for Europe’s NTOs“ and a set of strategic objectives relating to it. Each of the objectives is in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Finally, ETC suggested NTOs should partner with government departments and agencies on sustainability policy, to increase coordination and a more effective role in achieving sustainable tourism.