Security, flexibility and information will shape our relationship with consumers



Is the COVID-Free seal something consumers really want? What level of security will tourists demand? Can a COVID-Free seal negatively impact a business? These questions were the focus of the 7th #HTSIwebinar, organized by the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (URL) and titled “La nueva relación con el consumidor después de la COVID-19” (The new relationship with consumers after COVID-19).

According to Luis Galí, partner at Ernst & Young and co-founder of Pangea Travel, showing that the necessary safety measures have been taken at an establishment is essential. Still, “both COVID-Free and traceability are very hard to manage.” 

According to Sara Pastor, managing director of EMEA Destinations for ADARA, “not all travellers will place the same importance on this certification; it’ll depend on the individual.” Plus, many are opposed to this certification, as potential infections may lead to lawsuits. “We need to be ready to manage our brand’s rep

utation in case of an infection, which will likely cause a crisis on the social networks”, Luis Galí stated.

Security is key but must be associated with information and transparency, noted Dr Gilda Hernández-Maskivker, a professor and researcher at HTSI. “Tourists have a much more positive reaction when they have information, which greatly reduces uncertainty.” As a result, it is important to focus on how to provide security, accurate information and flexibility in each stage of the customer journey. All of this should “reduce travellers’ frustration”, the professor added.

Another of the conclusions of the virtual event was that security and flexibility in cancellations, refunds and returns are key. Sara Pastor noted that at the start of the crisis, airlines were the hardest-hit “because they were the ones that took the longest to react to cancellations; they failed to offer flexibility. On the other hand, hotels were much quicker and didn’t suffer such an important drop.”

Sustainable destinations

Many destinations have used confinement to rethink their tourism model: “they’ve spoken with residents and local businesses to see what kind of tourism they want. They’re reconsidering which KPIs are important for the destination”, Pastor announced.

The Netherlands is an example of this: its tourism sector measures the type and quality of tourism, not the number of tourists. It also emphasizes the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Ricard Santomà, dean of the School of Tourism, noted that “a destination isn’t the property of the public administration, the neighbours, the private sector or the tourists. It’s everyone’s, and we have to work together to decide where our destination is headed.”

Luis Galí concluded by noting that Ernst & Young is optimistic about the recovery of tourism and the widespread distribution of a vaccine: “tourism has become a commodity, a need.”

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