Local acceptance of tourism is a precondition for the sustainability and competitiveness of any tourism destination
According to the World Economic Forum, emerging markets are becoming more attractive destinations. Between 2016 and 2026, the top 10 fastest growing destinations for leisure travel spending are expected to be India, Angola, Uganda, Brunei, Thailand, China, Myanmar, Oman, Mozambique and Vietnam. What would you highlight in terms of efficient tourism management?
Predictions about the fastest growing tourism markets are popular and do a lot of good for the image and recognition of the tourism sector as they recognise the economic importance of the sector through economic growth. Nevertheless, the economic and management perspective of tourism has moved away from physical flows and total spending metrics, and has developed more sustainable key performance indicators based on the economic efficiency, profitability, social and environmental costs and benefits of tourism flows and growth. These emerging destinations are at the beginning of their growth path and tourism impact and nothing is known about the sustainability of tourism growth. At this stage, high growth rates are expected, which is the normal development path before the destination matures and the total visitation volume becomes more substantial, as well as the impact of tourism. However, the question remains as to how economically efficient and socially and environmentally responsible these growth models are, that is, the cost to society caused by the growth in tourism and how to stay financially profitable and at the same time competitive and attractive. Let's hope that these destinations take the excellent opportunity and do well in all aspects of full sustainability.
By 2022, according to Euromonitor, it is expected that China will be the world's largest source of outbound tourism with 128 million trips. Outside of Asia, the US and France are likely to benefit the most due to their China-ready approach. Can you share some background on the approach from the competitiveness perspective?
Indeed! China is a sleeping outbound tourism country, it is becoming the number one outgoing tourist country of tomorrow, however the tourism performance metrics we so often use are playing with us. China is a country of almost 1.4 billion people and represents the world's number one potential outgoing tourism market purely due to the size of the country. However, for the receiving countries, this argument becomes less relevant as they have to absorb the additional tourist demand. This might be the opportunity for the emerging tourism destinations previously highlighted. At the same time, it may be a threat to already overcrowded tourism destinations that have reached maturity. 128 million international trips represent almost 10 percent of world travellers. Such growing volume is rapidly changing the established segmentation map in many destinations. For receiving countries, this means a new market orientation and adjustment of tourism products to meet the needs and tastes of Chinese travellers, new transport connections and new tourism products. New demand from China also means additional growth, with all the opportunities and threats of tourism growth, its positive and negative impacts. Depending on the existing tourism volume in the receiving destinations, additional pressure might lead to over-tourism and anti-tourism, as witnessed in many destinations in 2017 when many mature destinations such as Dubrovnik, Mallorca, Barcelona and Amsterdam reported anti tourism movements and actions due to the tourism growth resulting in local residents marching against it. Modern competitiveness and performance tourism metrics have already recognised that, among other environmental considerations, social acceptance of tourism growth by the local population is a precondition for the sustainability and competitiveness of any destination.
Slovenia is following a sustainable tourism development path. Is the concept competitive and which tourists are attracted to Slovenia?
The sustainable tourism developmental concept is competitive by definition, as the right understanding of sustainability refers to three pillars: environmental (natural), socio-cultural and economic sustainability. For Slovenia, the economic sustainability has been the weakest. The analyses from the researchers at FELU, as a part of a project on a new Slovenian developmental tourism strategy for 2017-2021, confirmed that Slovenia is known globally as a green, sustainable and responsible destination, as proven by the many international green tourism awards that Slovenia has received over the past decade. The work promoting green tourism in Slovenia has been impressive, as are the results and recognitions from global tourist guiding organisations, such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic, World Travel Market, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, etc. However, in terms of average hotel prices and spending, Slovenia is well below the average prices of the neighbouring countries; profitability is low or even negative, ownership structure inappropriate. All these characteristics reduce the economic competitiveness position of Slovene tourism. Consequently, on the visitor side, the purchasing power or willingness to pay for the holiday experience in Slovenia is not in line with the high green quality; and tourism infra- and superstructure in many cases and does not justify higher prices. This needs to be changed soon! Slovenia must truly commit to increasing competitiveness and attracting visitors that are able and willing to spend more and stay longer.
What would you say is the hidden potential of Slovenian tourism?
In the context of the above debate, I would point out the gap between the opportunity to experience and offer a five star experience and existing services that we offer to support this experience. By this, I mean the quality of accommodation, infrastructure and attractions and their accessibility for potential visitors. Many best practice cases and successful five-star stories have emerged across Slovenia in the last decade yet, overall, Slovenia needs to overcome the lack of quantity and quality with accessibility, infrastructure and commercialisation of attractions, social and cultural experiences.