In order to understand the tourism system and the measures implemented in it, three main companies can easily be identified, which I summarize as follows:
a) those of politics and public administration;
b) that of commerce (companies and employees); and
c) that of the academy.
This is certain that there are some agents with less defined agreements, such as those who intervene in vocational training and counseling (in both cases between the trade and the academy). This reading is also valid internationally, but I would now like to focus on it at the national level.
Many years of experience of living the Portuguese tourism system in different circumstances and playing different roles shows me that the relationship between the three “companies” mentioned above is not always synergistic. I wouldn’t say it’s antagonistic, but neither do I identify it as systematically cooperating. Here or there we see two ‘parts’ working together, but almost never all three at the same time. Examples: public administration and trade in regulatory activities; public administration and science or trade and science in some advisory projects; But we have also found that the academy is rarely asked to give its opinion on regulation, or that the same academy invests less than necessary in studies of the professions and life of companies, or that commerce does not challenge the academy to think about its own operational problems .
I admit that it does not motivate me to analyze feelings of guilt, not least because none of the three “parts” of the tourism system will be exempt from responsibility in this matter. I speak of responsibilities because I believe that the lack of communication between the various actors in the system is in no way beneficial for its better functioning.
Given the catastrophic moment that Portuguese tourist offerings are experiencing due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies, and with them the public administration, are devoting all their focus and efforts to the fight for immediate survival. Resist to continue later in the best possible conditions. Is that understandable? Yes. Is that appropriate? Do not.
In the most difficult moments of a society – in this case with a special focus on institutions and companies in the broad cluster of tourism and hospitality – it is important not to lose track and rationality. It is important to save companies and their jobs right away, but understanding how we are going to move up is no less important. Nor would the lack of control warn of the reasons for an almost widespread lack of risk management plans. Many will say, “What nonsense! But could a risk assessment have anticipated the situation we are experiencing? “It is true that this is not the case, but still some companies resist better than others …
Let’s go back to the main topic of this article: cooperation between the different actors in tourism. While some are completely absorbed by the chaos of companies and the support they need to be given, others should work hard, at the request of others or on their own initiative, to bring about more structural thinking (1), the latter obviously based on information too to which the entire system must contribute. Everyone in his role, everyone contributes to the common good. Cooperation is the challenge.
(1) ESHTE and the Setúbal Polytechnic Institute have a project under way in this area: RE.COV.ER. This study, which was carried out by Professors Maria de Lurdes Calisto, Teresa Costa and Jorge Umbelino in collaboration with the master’s students Madalena Rebelo de Andrade, Carolina Portugal and Carolina Lourenço, has already presented the first results. A new information gathering will take place shortly.