Safety, sustainability and technology rule tourism in 2021

by: Amy Blasco

After more than a year of heavy restrictions, California’s tourism industry got the OK last month to start hosting small meetings and events again. Verdin recently helped Ventura County Coast prepare for reopening with their “Clean + Safe Meeting and Events Guidelines” virtual tour, an online resource for local hospitality venues created in partnership with the California Hotel & Lodging Association.

The much-anticipated “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” also set June 15 as the tentative date for all of the state’s industries to return to full operations—with safety measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The news is highly welcome by a sector greatly impacted by the pandemic. According to Visit California, tourist spending dropped by $86 billion in 2020 and about 518,000 leisure and hospitality workers lost their jobs. Nationally, spending dropped by nearly 42 percent, from $679 billion to $500 billion, with international and business travel being hit the hardest.

As travel and events slowly start to rebound, the main question on everyone’s minds is: What will the new world of tourism look like in 2021 and beyond?

Here are some trends to plan for as your region travels along the road to economic recovery and, hopefully, growth:

Travelers care more about health and safety

“The travelers of the future will be much more cautious, and the public health conditions of destinations, and the hygiene standards of transportations, hotels and other tourism facilities will become a top priority,” said Simon Hudson, a professor of tourism, in an article for the University of South Carolina.

Because of this, many people will opt to drive to destinations closer to home instead of flying to another state or country. International travel is expected to take the longest to recover, so regions that typically rely on visitors from other countries should target drive markets first. Campaigns promoting road trips, like Visit California’s Road Trip Republic, have proven to be successful for weathering the pandemic.

Going green is good for business

Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, recently told National Geographic that travelers will “take on the role of ‘concerned citizens’ demanding responsible travel policies.” Sustainable practices could soon be key when it comes to choosing a destination to visit, accommodations and activities.

Outdoor tourism will continue to be popular, especially for families, because it offers the trifecta of sustainability, safety and affordability. Destinations and businesses can pivot their marketing strategies to focus more on connecting people with nature to keep visitors happy.

For example, Verdin recently crafted a blog for client Ventura County Coast promoting sustainable travel. “5 Steps for Planning an Eco-Friendly Road Trip” highlights the region’s certified green businesses, as well as sustainable restaurants, hotels and farms.

Time to tap into touchless tech

Say that three times fast! But, seriously, touchless tech is where it’s at these days. “Now, more companies and activity venues like ski resorts and theme parks are rolling out apps that allow users to order food, scan tickets and check into reservations,” writes Gregory Thomas for the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a hard turn away from the brand of in-person interactions the hospitality industry is built on.”

While using tech might seem too impersonal, it’s something people are looking for. Add personal touches to your digital services with personalized messaging and content that caters to your audience’s interests. And, if all else fails, make sure to keep an open telephone line for old-fashioned, person-to-person conversations.

Need help? Verdin specializes in crafting strategies for destinations and Business Improvement Districts. Contact us today at

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