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All change? Reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic as a transformative moment for tourism

All change? Reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic as a transformative moment for tourism

Laura James and Carina Ren have given the first keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research 2021. The subject of their address was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prospects for more sustainable tourism futures. 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in dramatic reductions in tourism mobility and represents a huge shock to the tourism sector and the communities that depend upon it. Early reflections on the impact of the pandemic and potential post-pandemic tourism futures have ranged from the dystopian to the transformational. While some see tourism bouncing back to pre-pandemic trends, others suggest that the pandemic can be perceived as a turning point, which can inform and initiate the transitioning of tourism into greener and more sustainable trajectories. 

Building on the notion of transformative moments, the keynote reflected on the conceptualization of change within tourism in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It argued that the pandemic raises important issues and questions regarding the distinction between incremental and radical change, as well as the relationship between resistance, renewal and reorientation in the context of tourism. Drawing on empirical material from their research on the experience of European and Arctic tourism destinations, Laura and Carina explored the ways in which the pandemic can - and cannot - be understood as a transformative moment and what we might learn from pandemic innovations with regard to transitions towards more sustainable tourism futures.