As the world begins to reopen and life transitions back to normality, it’s natural that we’ve all been left wondering what ‘normal’ truly means for our future. For those of us in the tourism sector, normality, has continued to raise question after question about the future of our industry and what tourism really looks like in the ever- changing landscape we currently find ourselves in.
Having worked in the tourism industry for over 30 years, our CEO Juliana Delaney never anticipated that she’d have to shut the doors to her group of attractions for the best part of a year. But, more than that, when the doors closed in Spring 2020, she certainly didn’t anticipate the opportunities that this period might lead to. With a year of uncertainty behind us, innovation, flexibility and a willingness to embrace the unknown have been at the core of operations at Continuum Attractions. So, as we emerge from a period of extended lockdowns and closures, here’s what Juliana sees for the future of UK Tourism:
“Before Covid took hold of the UK, we were performing incredibly well and exciting new prospects were close on the horizon. The threat of having to close our doors to our guests was a devastating prospect, but we knew this period of closure wasn’t an opportunity to sulk and put our feet up. We started with the humble beginnings of managing Jorvik Viking Centre in 1981. Since then, we’ve built a growing portfolio of attractions across England, Scotland and Wales, welcoming millions of visitors a year. It was high time to hold a mirror up to our business and how it runs.”
“Naturally our customer-facing teams were placed on furlough, which has been a real lifeline for so many businesses like ours. But for those of us able to work, it was time to get lockdown fit. We overhauled our operations and booking program, investing in new software that would allow our teams to do more for our customers. We reviewed each visitor attraction in more detail than ever before, creating lean and close-knit teams to deliver on our changing customer needs. We also invested in physical improvements and expansions to our sites wherever possible, like the new sustainable accommodation and outdoor quest at our popular Greenwood site.”
“We also spent a lot of time working with industry partners and fellow operators to share best practice on how we navigate this completely unpredictable turn of events. It’s a shared opinion in the industry that tourism is often overlooked for its economic and emotional value. A global pandemic has finally shifted that aged perception. With that, and our improved joined up approach as an industry, I see a bright future in our comeback.”
“As the world continues to hold up its crystal ball, wondering what the future of their industry will look like post-pandemic, I think there are some changes that are here to stay for tourism. We’ll continue to create space at our attractions to allow for social distancing, even when it’s no longer mandatory. We’re also going to ask all our guests to book in advance to help us move them through our attractions, avoiding crowds or bottlenecks. We’ll also continue to offer experiences virtually as well as in person, like our popular underground video tour of Edinburgh’s forgotten Royal Mile – The Real Mary King’s Close.”
“I also think the revival of human contact will be high on our post-lockdown wish list. We’ve all had to adjust to a world lived online, from our shopping habits to our working environments and even how we catch up with friends and relatives. Our visitor attractions showcase real people and their stories in an enriching way that just can’t be experienced as authentically online. I can’t wait to see our tour guides light up a room of engaged visitors again.”
“With a lot of uncertainty around quite how carefree and open this summer will be, there’s also a new message needed for our industry: ‘Visit, but visit responsibly’. Britain does have beautiful landmarks and memorable places to holiday – I’ve been shouting about that for years – but we can’t overwhelm these places beyond recognition with a level of carelessness. If you’re planning to hike Snowdonia or head to your local park, pick up and dispose of your litter. It’s the least we can all do after more than a year of pulling together to try and safely open up our world again.”
So, with re-opening on the horizon, it’s clear that the landscape of tourism remains changed and further evolution is inevitable. Much like our attitude to the last 12 months, at Continuum Attractions we’re looking to this next phase with optimism and, more than anything, we’re excited to be welcoming our guests back into our attractions.