Macroeconomics in times of social consciousness. That is what this stage of human history should be called. However, at crucial moments like these, it is less important for us to go into the micro, to look around and understand our relationships, our opportunities and those self-imposed challenges as normal in the fast pace of the pre-coronavirus world. To do this, we need to slow down and pause for reflection, but with foresight and proposals for action from our experiences, from our neighborhoods - from our local reality.
In spite of the informative load that we receive day by day, this reflection begins by wanting to be less selfish, to re-learn to be more empathetic; to understand that while some of us remain safe, a neighbor also lives with more fears because of a serious economic situation that escapes his or her control. It begins by understanding that, as we sit at the table daily, there are also people who have less and who see the future with less optimistic eyes. Expecting to be less selfish also starts by recognizing that inequality is tinted with different colors and that anyone could have used them without our noticing. No more and no less.
It is precisely this inequality that has demonstrated the vulnerability of our States, which, with the inclusion of a pandemic virus, ended up striking at national prides and stripping the weak structures of many governments. In this glance between our micro-realities and the vulnerability of our macro-society, we find simultaneous efforts to equate a common good; a point of social balance, which continues with the closing of inequalities and which, at least for now, does not further weaken our structures. These efforts have highlighted the need for "good governance" and its capacity to be re-constructed on the basis of its productivesectors. One of them, tourism.
Tourism has been affected by the pandemic. Countries closed their borders and airlines stopped marketing flights; hotels closed in the absence of guests and restaurants, except for "delivery" mode, ceased to be the daily meeting place. The entire industry was put on hold.
The common link to this affectation is fear. Even if the virus is overcome, it will lead to a decrease in local and country to country travel; travel will probably not be the same, tourist consumption habits will definitely change and in that sense, the tourist's habit will also change and in a more notorious way. However, despite the fear and the new formulas for visiting, what will not change will be the need to know, to be in different environments, to satisfy leisure and learn from the differences, that travel has been able to achieve, like no other sector.
Part of these reasons are that most of the solutions proposed by experts to reactivate tourism (and on which we agree) is to focus especially on domestic tourism. Not only because of people's fear of visiting other countries, but also because the family economy will focus on covering the most basic needs and the budget previously allocated to enjoying leisure outside the country will be diverted to other priorities and facilities. But beyond that, for many years and for many countries, the promotion of domestic tourism - especially during low seasons - has had an important ally: Social Tourism.
Countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, among others, have policies and programs that encourage the enjoyment of leisure time by different publics (school-age children, youth, people with disabilities, families, seniors, women, domestic workers, rural workers, to name a few), understanding that these target audiences also deserve the physical, social and psychological benefits that being a tourist would bring and that this in turn helps the destinations that suffer from this marked seasonality (or that are looking for positioning) to maintain an almost constant flow during the months of stagnation. Consequently, this constant flow allows tourism services and their local productive chain to contribute to the economic
dynamism of the destination.
There is documentation to which one can refer and where one can study in depth the success of these policies and programmes in relation to the supply (greater return to the public purse through taxes in return for investment) and in relation to the demand (levels of satisfaction of the beneficiaries).
The success stories of social tourism programs in Latin America include evidence of changes in the target audiences, achieving over time new consumption habits that include spending on tourism and recreation and the continued participation of the State in the promotion, development and implementation of these programs.
In particular, the target audience of Social Tourism is of special interest. According to the UN Population Fund, within a decade, there will be more than a billion people over the age of 60. This age group is already generating a "boom" worldwide and before COVID-19 it was estimated that it could reach 40% of the tourism market, and it also has a highly valued characteristic: the freedom of time.
On the other hand, as for young people, they travel more and more, further and seek more authentic experiences. According to the report "The Power of Youth Travel", prepared by WYSE Travel Confederation in collaboration with UNWTO, global youth tourism represents approximately 190 million international trips per year, and, before COVID-19, it was estimated that 370 million young tourists would be travelling by 2020.
This is just to mention two of the target audiences. For all these reasons, the decision of the State to implement tourism policy measures that reactivate the demand - in these contexts - has the guarantee of being based on the fact that Social Tourism will help not only to comply with what is established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - regarding rest, the enjoyment of free time and periodic paid vacations - and the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, but it will also help to promote the economic benefit of the sector and the well-being of the social tourism public (the majority of which are population groups historically excluded from tourism). In short, it is a response to a public policy on tourism that urgently requires measures that take into account the most vulnerable and guarantee them integral development, without detracting from the economic considerations that make such policies sustainable.
Social Tourism has a background in which gaps are reduced and the country is socially unified. It has the effect of restructuring public tourism policies with a more comprehensive, more humane, more supportive, more sustainable and consequently more just approach; and this is where our vision of what is required of the new tourism takes on greater relevance.
Without doubt, Social Tourism has so far proved to be indissociable from the State and the purposes it seeks for the well-being of its population. With this in mind, it is important to emphasize that access to holidays generates an improvement in the quality of life of the population, and that this will lead to more physically active, cohesive and psychologically healthy citizens who are less affected by stress. This, in turn, may lead to a decrease in the demand for public health services, especially mental health services, and may make people feel less excluded and more valued, and consequently overcome their feelings of frustration that sometimes generate socially harmful behaviour. No less important, those travel agencies (and the businesses related to the tourist experience) should have stability of income throughout the year.
As stated in the document "Tourism as a form of social intervention", social tourism, because of its immediate effects on the beneficiaries, compared to the cost of other social measures that pursue the same objectives, can be considered the most efficient measure.
And for us, in the face of the situation, any proposal that strips us of our current selfishness and indifference, from our day-to-day behaviour to the design of public policies, contributes to the greatest slogan that we must all consider tirelessly necessary: "light for all, everything for all".