6 Things That We Learned About Travel In 2020
2020 was the worst year for travel, but we certainly all learned a few things about travel. Here are six things that we noticed and what we have learned.
Playa Del Carmen cannot survive on just tourism
Anytime one place is dependent on one type of industry, it can suddenly come crashing down. From fishing village to tourism mecca. Playa del Carmen was built on tourism and has only started to develop other avenues of businesses independent of tourism. In the past, after a strong hurricane passed through, it took a while for everything to get back up and running. Tourism dried up for a few months and it meant a lean time for workers. Jobs in Playa are very reliant on tourism and even low and high season affects peoples habits.
The pandemic only exposed how fragile the economy is in the Riviera Maya. In April many thought it might last a few months of pause for the quarantine, but as the summer dragged on and people kept putting trips off, it got very hard for some. The past year saw thousands of young people moving out of Playa and going to family’s towns because of the lack of work.
This was not all a bad news. Many young people gained an appreciation for the small towns where they came from and some of the traditional ways of living. After all, the life in many rural areas has sustained people for hundreds of years. An appreciation of farming, crafts and using natural resources reminded some that the “modern” life in Playa was not everything.
In the past decade Playa Del Carmen has been adding a more diverse job base. Since Playa has expanded into a city, there are other avenues for work that, even though tourism interconnects many things, are more support jobs for a growing population. Restaurants, construction, infrastructure jobs and other avenues of work have helped Playa become a little more diverse. There is still plenty of room to grow others sectors of the economy and we are reminded of this from the past year.
Travel is important for all of us!
We all know we love travel, but when it is not possible, it was one of the first things most people thought of. Early in the year when it started to look like travel would be limited or needed to be canceled, many started to lament this. Some people resorted to posting old travel pictures while others moved trips for the next year.
Never in human history has popping over to another country for a weekend or trip been easier. We are upwardly mobile and the cost of traveling to all corners of the globe is accessible to many. We have become accustomed to traveling and fulfilling out Instagram goals, no matter where that takes us.
After 2020, we are sure that all of us will not take for granted traveling and how much it means to us. Many we have talked with are already planning extra special trips when it is possible. This means longer, more luxurious vacations or just ticking some of the destinations off the travel bucket list that they have been putting off.
Technology is here to stay
Just a few decades ago, travel meant buying a guidebook and calling an airline for ticket prices. Nowadays, it is possible to see live webcams, book hotels, restaurants and flights all from our cell phones. Technology and tourism have gone hand in hand moving things forward and changing how we travel.
During 2020 we saw technology come along to help travel more safely during the pandemic. In 2020 we saw widespread restaurant menus by scan code, digital check-in at hotels, and online ordering of groceries and delivery services just to mention a few things.
We will probably see a continuance of some of these things as travel continues to be influenced by technology. Wi-Fi is more important than ever for travelers and so is brining your smart phone. Technology is helping us discover new things, travel safer, and helping us visit new locations.
Every destination needs local and international tourism
As we learned from this past year, conditions can change and this can drastically affect tourism. Countries closed borders, others put restrictions on citizens traveling. Some of the famous destinations in the world that are well known to the international traveler, are often too expensive for the locals. Mexico is in a unique position. Mexico has millions of people that visit each year from abroad and it has a sizable upper and middle class that is affluent enough to travel domestically.
For the Riviera Maya, domestic travel took a much greater share of the market as international arrivals dropped. Hotels and parks have had promotions for nationals and the dynamic of who was traveling changed. Mexico is fortunate that it offers many great destinations and easy flight connections. One of the things we tell owners of rentals in Playa Del Carmen is not to forsake the local market and have information available in multiple languages. Local tourism is important and can carry locations through low seasons and travel interruptions.
Businesses need to be 3 things to survive
2020 was a bad year for a lot of businesses. We saw about 20% close on 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. Those businesses that survived had a few things in common. We are not talking about large necessary businesses like grocery stores, but rather mom and pop businesses. The three things are:
- Good financial planning to get past the rough times.
Flexibility comes into play to change the business model. We saw examples of this in Playa when many restaurants offered delivery service instead of in house dinning.
Creativity comes into play when you need to reach customers, or come up with new ways to sell. This is a little different than flexibility because you still need to be creative about how you search for a way to market yourself. We saw examples of this when some produce sellers changed from selling to high end restaurants to offering organic baskets delivered to homes.
Having a good financial footing is important at all times because there will always be ups and downs. Especially in the Riviera May there are high and low seasons and all good businesses know they need to pace spending, because income is not always coming in at the same rate. Sometimes just having a little extra to cover the rent while the slow time is over, helps make a business succeed.
We have seen a lot of changes to tourism over the past year and we are sure that some of these will carry over into the future. We hope that as we progress into this year, we all get to travel freely again and enjoy the things we love about traveling.