Thinking about the future is innate to us. The ability to anticipate the consequences of our actions and to visualise the future under different circumstances is a characteristic that defines us as human beings. The construction and use of Scenario Planning & Thinking for decision making has a long history, which accelerated after World War II with organisations such as the RAND Corporation and the Hudson Institute. Very recently, it has been boosted by the pandemic and the "opening of futures" that this disruption implied for organisations.

Scenarios are narratives of alternative environments in which today's decisions may be executed. Scenario planning is a very powerful tool for structuring information, stimulating creativity, communication, and strategic thinking.

It unites various facets of foresight analysis and illustrates future strategic contexts through technical and symbolic narratives that can be retold, visualised and discussed very effectively.

These characteristics of the Scenarios may be particularly relevant for a sector such as Tourism, characterised by stakeholder diversity, intertwining with territorial dynamics and, among other features, exposure to global forces of change such as digitalisation, population ageing, globalisation and international mobility, and environmental concerns and the green economy.

Even stressing that any Scenario exercise requires participation and interaction, I risk advancing, in an exploratory way and inspired by multiple international works on the future of Tourism (many of them focused on the post-pandemic),with some ideas on the future of Tourism in Portugal. I divide this exploration in the two central constitutive blocks of a scenario exercise, as proposed by the Intuitive Logic School ("Shell School"): crucial uncertainties and predetermined elements.

Among the potential crucial uncertainties for the future of Tourism in Portugal in the medium/long term, I would highlight

But not all key variables will have, as regards their evolution, the same level of uncertainty in the medium and long term. Among the predetermined elements to consider for the future of Tourism in Portugal, I would put forward (Figure 2):

Having opted for a global exploration of key variables for the future of Tourism in Portugal, and gaining amplitude with that, it is not possible, at the same time and in this space, to detail each one of them. But I can and must emphasise that, beyond the necessary "strategic discussion" that is indispensable to the process, the anchoring of that debate in "future oriented evidence" that supports the selection of variables is fundamental. Then, and based on a process that identifies and combines elements such as those mentioned above, descriptions of possible, plausible and strategically relevant futures (Scenarios) would be built, which each organisation (and/or department; and/or team) could use to imagine the future, (re)thinking its strategies and priorities, bringing to internal decision making the ongoing transformations in its context. And learning, effectively and fun, in the process. Shall we do it?

This text is republished in partnership with the magazine Publituris Hotelaria - read the original article here.

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