The recent COVID-19 pandemic remains one of the greatest external shocks to cause a global crisis and strike the global travel industry. Like no other industry, tourism is vulnerable to external demand shocks caused by geopolitical issues, climate instability, environmental disasters and terrorist attacks. These events make the sector’s activities difficult and fraught with problems. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was the first global crisis to affect the whole globe. For the first time in modern history, it became impossible or very difficult to travel between countries, and many connections within countries were also suspended. These measures were taken to slow the spread of the virus. The reduced ability to travel physically resulted in a significant drop in demand for tourism products and services.
Many tourism companies have suspended operations, declared bankruptcy or looked for ways to increase business stability and generate new revenue streams. The changes and innovations introduced often involved digitalisation and the use of new technologies.
The pandemic itself also caused travellers’ needs and behaviour to change. Tourists have become more cautious about travelling and more willing to buy travel and health insurance. More attention was paid to whether there were safe and hygienic conditions at the place of stay. New phenomena have also appeared, such as the “workcation,” i.e., the possibility of combining work with a stay outside one's usual place of residence. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up tourism; but it also allowed new paths of development and growth to be explored.
Although three years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions remain unanswered. How tourism will evolve in the post-pandemic world is still unknown, and this creates an interesting research field. Nevertheless, each crisis produces not only negative effects, but also opportunities for change and—from a research perspective—new knowledge regarding coping strategies and possible future scenarios for the tourism industry.
This Special Issue, “From Over-Tourism to Zero-Tourism: Opportunities for a New Beginning?”, addresses key changes and current opportunities in tourism and business, covering a wide range of topics related to the negative external shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The papers presented in this special issue are the result of the academic contributions of researchers who attended the 4th International Conference on Tourism and Business (ICTB). The conference was organized jointly by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland), Mahidol University International College (Thailand) and Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland), and it was held in Lucerne, Switzerland, between 24 and 27 August 2022. Introducing a biannual frequency, the 5th such conference is planned to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2024.
Our conference was intended to promote the debate between scientists and business professionals working for and in the tourism industry. The ICTB fostered academic debate and provided a forum in which to discuss research findings in an international, interdisciplinary community.
The 4th ICTB gathered more than 80 participants from 19 countries (Thailand, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, China, Croatia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, the USA and Uzbekistan), who presented their research.
Researchers participating in the ICTB conference were encouraged to submit papers on the following five main topics:
Demand side: external shocks in general and their effects on tourism and business;
Supply side: how does the tourism industry react to external shocks, and how does it cope with crises?
COVID-19 and its effects on tourism, business and the recovery of the tourism industry;
COVID-19 and its positive effects on sustainability;
Tourism, pandemic diseases and intervention design: opportunities for a new beginning?
The extended abstracts and articles submitted to our conference most frequently addressed topics related to building resilience after COVID-19 and to developing strategies for survival and business recovery after the end of the pandemic. Many researchers prepared articles on sustainable development, the role of which increased significantly during the pandemic. There were also presentations on the role of new technologies and of digitalization on tourism development. One of the most important benefits of the conference was the opportunity to meet in an international setting and discuss the problems and solutions that have been implemented in different parts of the world. The exchange of experiences and discussion of research results contributed to the search for new solutions to the crisis caused by COVID.
As guest editors, we thank all the authors who submitted their papers to our Special Issue. Our thanks also go to the reviewers, who devoted their time to reviewing the papers to be considered for this Special Issue. Last but not least, we would like to invite you to join us for the next International Conference of Tourism and Business, to be held in Thailand in August 2024.
We would like to conclude on a personal note. We are delighted that the conference, which was launched in 2015, will now be held for a fifth time. This joy is overshadowed by the sad fact that we will not all be able to meet again. Last autumn, we received the sad news of the death of our colleague, Professor Roberto Gozzoli. He was a lecturer at Mahidol University’s International College and a contributor to previous ICTB conferences. We are deeply saddened by his unexpected passing. He will remain in our memories as an insightful scientist and a friendly, cheerful person, whose contributions to our ICTB conferences have been substantial.