MCI: First interim results for current research project "COVID-19 - Risk Management Winter Season 2020/2021" | Funded by the states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg
In order to ensure safe winter tourism, the complexity of COVID-19 management must be reduced, communicated transparently, acted upon uniformly, the willingness to compromise must be encouraged, and attractive actions must be taken. These are the interim results of the research project "COVID-19 - Risk Management Winter Season 2020/2021" of the Center for Social and Health Innovation (CSHI) at MCI. After two productive months of research, CSHI is now able to present these first recommendations of action to the tourism industry in western Austria, which is currently facing travel warnings due to the considerable increase in the number of infections. It is important to note that the next few weeks will be decisive in determining how well the provinces, communities and tourism areas prepare for the remaining time until the start of the winter season. "The necessary safety distances and behavioral patterns must be organized and, if possible, combined with an increase in quality for all parties involved. But until everyone pulls together, there is still a lot to do", says Siegfried Walch, Head of the MCI Department of Nonprofit, Social and Health Management.
"[...] The single most important weapon against the disease will be a vaccine. The second most important will be communication.” (John M. Barry 2009: Pandemics: avoiding the mistakes of 1918).
Based on this quote, the first interim results show that communication is still crucial in the current pandemic, but at the same time has the potential to be improved. In the first phase, representatives of communities, tourism associations and cable car companies were interviewed both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to outline the status quo in the individual destinations and to identify local potential, needs and challenges. "A risk management for winter tourism that is supported by everyone also helps us in other social areas such as health care, schools, etc.". Lukas Kerschbaumer, Center for Social & Health Innovation at MCI. CSHI, therefore, summarizes the following requirements and fields of action:
Today, we have a good understanding of the circumstances surrounding an infection. Not everything has to be the subject of meticulous controls. It is a matter of identifying critical points, contexts and situations and applying simple but effective concepts for these few but crucial hotspots. The federal government has taken the first step in this direction with its rules for the catering industry.
Many actors are waiting for legal requirements and often fail to take a proactive approach at the local level. In this context, the CSHI survey identifies a deficit in connecting among tourism stakeholders and criticizes the lack of regulation of responsibilities between regional and national actors. The motto for the coming weeks must be: "We act proactively and with foresight in our respective areas of responsibility and do not wait until every detail is regulated by accompanying measures of the federal states or the federal government, but we are pleased about every coordinated regulation that ensures security for the winter season".
Particularly large and medium-sized ski resorts are driving forward the preparations of measures for winter tourism. The CSHI survey shows, however, that this is not possible or desired by all to the same extent. At the same time, many players are putting a lot of effort into parallel activities. Here, the potential for synergies in terms of resources and knowledge remains untapped. For example, many regional investments in contact tracing could be bundled if this would support the nationwide anchoring of the Stop Corona App. "The rapid tracing of contacts is one of the challenges that must be overcome in winter to keep the incidence of infection as low as possible. That's why simple but effective registration measurements are required," Hubert Siller, Leites MCI Tourismus, summarizes the situation.
It needs the establishment of a credible message: "Safe Tirol, safe Vorarlberg, safe winter season. The health of locals, employees and guests comes in first. This year, the competition is not to be found in the neighboring valley. The competitors are the virus, the travel warnings, the Lockdown. Security is given where congestion is avoided or systematic loosening of groups is carried out. However, the results of the CSHI show that the willingness to reduce workloads has not been up for discussion so far.
The current situation has the potential to trigger a cultural change in winter tourism. Not all measures must be assigned to the minimization of infection events, but can establish a new idea of quality and increase the quality of offers in winter tourism in the long term. (Keywords: no crowding in queues, no waiting for tickets as online booking is possible in advance, virtual queuing, regulated frequency and space management in gondolas and ski huts). Furthermore, it is important to keep an eye on cooperation with other social areas such as health care, schools, etc. Risk management in winter applies to all areas of life.
Outlook for the second project phase
These interim results will now be combined into a model of action for the winter season, which in turn will be sent to all communities, tourism associations and cable car companies in Tyrol and Vorarlberg. At the same time, in the second phase, all enterprises are invited to participate in the questionnaire.
Thus all decision-makers responsible in tourism are to be supported to organize a winter season as safe as possible, i.e. to recognize the risks connected with the COVID 19 infection danger, to identify, estimate and evaluate them in their own environment and to integrate them into their own procedures.