News & Views

The Dreaded 2020 In Tourism Recap

We all knew this was coming. The annual 2020 recap we would all rather not write. This year has been one for the record books for all of us in the travel industry and I, for one, am not shedding any tears to see it go. I’m not sure I have any tears left. In fact, I’m happy to help pack its bags and push it out the door.

I won’t spend time pontificating about how hard it’s been and how I am so proud of the work we’ve all done to weather this ongoing storm. I don’t want to hypothesize on trends or on when we might be traveling “like before” again. It’s not the time. We’re tired of that. Instead, I want to just recap what 2020 has done to us and what we need to remember moving forward as an industry.

This year has rattled our industry to its soul, it’s true. I want to reiterate, however, that we will be better in the future, but only by remembering what we felt and learned during 2020.

What 2020 has done to all of us – DMOs, marketers, travel media, travel advisors – is strip us all down to the barest essentials to get us through this pandemic: innovation, relationships and hope. By bringing these survival instincts forward, the travel industry has stayed alive and will live to see another day as December 31 ticks over to January 1, 2021.


It’s no surprise here that 2020’s word of the year should be “pivot.” We’ve all been doing it, we’ve watched our local tourism businesses do it, and we will continue to do it as the pandemic rages on.

But innovation wasn’t always such a focal point of travel and tourism. It was a nice to have, but now it’s a leading factor. The cruise industry, airlines, hotels, even Airbnb – they’re all changing things, and as discussed previously, it’s no longer just a temporary fix. The travel industry will look different on the other end as we morph and adapt and evolve.

Even at DCI, we’ve been forced to innovate with how we operate, working remotely, and engaging with clients in new ways. Who would have thought a virtual immersion or virtual career fair would have been something we’d discuss? Yet here we are, still at it and continuing to find ways to rethink and innovate.

Moving forward, this instinct to innovate needs to become commonplace, never letting old practices act like shackles on us. The thrill of something new and fresh and ingenious needs to be a high we chase down as travel professionals in our work as much as in our own travels.


While we were spinning our wheels and gears to find what’s new, what’s next, what’s fresh, the travel industry fell back on one stalwart feature that we often took for granted. Our relationships.

Across the industry, travel professionals have been strengthening their partnerships like never before, realizing that without travelers, we’re all we’ve got. We supported each other, communicated more consistently, educated each other, and just generally got back to the basics of good relationship building.

As we move forward through recovery, waiting for the day when a “new wave” of COVID will no longer be a possibility, at least more united than before. Destination marketers, travel media, travel advisors, destinations and all of the industry actors know who they can rely on moving forward. Don’t forget those who stood by your side during these challenging times. And for those who felt left behind – travel influencers, for example – let’s bring them back into the fold in a way that will not see them forgotten again.


Finally, at the risk of sounding sappy, 2020 has laid bare that really, all we have to fall back on going into 2021 is hope. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that all of our hard work has been for naught. At the end of the day, however, it’s ultimately out of our hands when the travel industry revs up again. We can rally and plead and beg and petition, but if borders shut and vaccines roll out slowly, we can’t do much more than hope it all works out.

If someone told me that one of the world’s largest industries would one day dance on the razor’s edge of hope, I’d have laughed. Yet here we are. Hoping that all goes well and that we can get back to supporting an industry that we all know and cherish.

When eventually 2021 treats us better than 2020, we can turn this hope into action and all of our hard work and planning and innovation and relationship building can drive us forward towards success.

In the meantime, as we celebrate together, we all want to wave off 2020 into the distance, from far away, over the horizon, never to come back. It’s imprint on us, however deleterious it may seem, will fade, but these essentials won’t. We’ll build back stronger than ever, and I, for one, am excited to see where 2021 takes us.

All of DCI wishes you a most joyous holiday season and we look forward to a bright 2021. If you have any questions about how DCI can help you kick off the new year, please get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected]. Be festive, be merry, be safe!

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

More Articles by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Interested in how DCI collaborates with our clients to increase visitors and business inquiries?

Get In Touch
We have updated our Privacy Policy to include GDPR. If you continue we will assume that you agree to our privacy policy.