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    Will the Balkans See More or Less Tourism After COVID-19?

    As we detailed back in May in the post ‘Peaks of the Balkans in Covid 19 Pandemic’, travel in the region has begun to normalize. Various restrictions are being lifted, and while they could always be reinstated, the hope is that we’re in the midst of an ongoing transition back to normal. Naturally, this opens up some exciting opportunities for outdoor adventures in the Balkan region. But it also introduces the fascinating question of whether we’re going to see more reluctance or enthusiasm for travel in the aftermath of Covid.

    It’s a question no one can answer with certainty just yet. However, it’s still an interesting one to consider.

    The Argument for Reluctance

    Logically speaking, the argument that we may see some reluctance to travel is easy to understand. The Covid pandemic may subside, but it will leave fears and insecurities in its wake. Some may simply not be comfortable venturing out into the world as they once might have.

    This is actually what we see in some surveys on the subject. Most notably, Forbes found in a survey that 41% of people globally expect to travel less “by any means” following Covid 19. That indicates that people are not simply spooked about planes, or reluctant to visit crowded cities, etc. Rather, it shows a more general uncertainty about the idea of traveling in the aftermath of a pandemic.

    On a somewhat less scientific level, we may also be seeing a trend toward travel becoming less of a priority. Not long ago, Gala Spins conducted a just-for-fun poll of 1,000 residents of the UK about what they would and would not give up in return for £1 million. And 62% said they’d give up traveling abroad in exchange for the money. Perhaps this isn’t all too shocking given the amount of money in the hypothetical survey. But given how often travel is cited by people all over the world as an ambition, or even a bucket list item, this does seem to indicate that priorities may be shifting.

    The Argument for Enthusiasm

    Despite the indications just discussed, there are also some reasons to believe that we’ll soon see renewed enthusiasm for travel. First and foremost there’s the fact that many who have spent a year and-a-half staying put are simply yearning for new experiences out in the world. This will almost certainly lead some to prioritize travel who might have put it off otherwise.

    As for actual data and recent indications, perhaps the most promising factor is that global tourism was spiking significantly before the pandemic. The Guardian states that there were 1.4 billion international tourists in 2018 — up 6% from 2017 and continuing an exponential trend dating back to the end of World War II. Now, it could be that the pandemic proves to be the kind of cataclysmic world event that could reverse this trend. But it’s hard to imagine we won’t see a return to numbers that at least resemble those of recent years.

    Additionally, there have been some interesting analyses suggesting that we’ll see more vacations specifically like the hikes and adventures through the Balkans we’re passionate about here. As EuroNews put it, endless months of cabin fever will lead to a “universal hunger for wide-open spaces,” and people will seek out ways to truly enjoy destinations at a slower pace. This same analysis pointed to some early evidence in the form of significant tourism in the United States’ state and national parks in the early days following lockdowns. Certainly, we could see something similar in the Balkans once more time has passed.

    Conclusion

    Predicting global travel trends following Covid-19 cannot be done in an exact manner. The most honest assessment is that we can imagine both reluctance and enthusiasm in the months and years to come. In time though, the realistic hope is that the desire to travel, to enjoy the natural world, and to have real experiences will lead people back to the peaks.