Published 2 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Not in the Guidebooks/Facebook
Many people are becoming more aware of their environmental footprint and the impact they have on people and the planet. This awareness can be harnessed by the tourism industry to shift passive sea-and-sun tourists into more conscientious, actively engaged travelers.
Long before COVID-19, the tourism industry’s shaky foundation was falling apart:
Destinations suffered from overcrowding and gentrification, precious natural
resources were diverted from local communities to meet traveler needs, and
Indigenous people were forcibly removed from their land to make way for resort
construction — all while Instagram defined picture-perfect travel
“As tourism grew, so did the opportunity to expand the visitor experience. The
idea was the more experiences you have, the more visitors you attract. More
visitors equals more revenue. More revenue means a healthier economy. And a
healthier economy improves lives and livelihoods. Or, does it?” posited Chris
Flynn, president and CEO of the World Tourism Association for Culture and
Heritage, at A World for Travel’s recent hybrid
Evora Forum (Sept. 16-17).
Ultimately, Flynn said, “As tourism grew, it became the victim of its own
The pandemic may have exposed tourism’s problems, but it also invited debate on
how to address them. At the Evora Forum, conversations centered on solutions for
prioritizing residents alongside
addressing the climate
and putting regenerative
into place to form the foundation of a new tourism model.
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Three themes — collaboration, localization and actively engaging travelers —
surfaced throughout the event as key pathways toward a more sustainable future
for the tourism industry.
Yesterday’s competition must become today’s partner if the tourism industry —
and society at large — is to actively address the global challenges we all face.
In order for tourism to be integrated into communities in a meaningful way and
it must work in partnership with both the public and private sectors, in tandem
with government objectives, and across sectors.
“Before 2019, most governments were thinking the tourism sector and tourism
generally were working on its own,” said the Hon. Nikolina Angelkova, a
Member of Parliament in Bulgaria and the country’s Minister of Tourism from
2014-2020. “This pandemic shows that, actually, tourism needs to be supported.”
She emphasized the industry should be aligned with national policy, local
governments, and non-profit organizations working on sustainability efforts.
Numerous stakeholders are invested in developing high-quality, profitable
tourism experiences. However, Holly Budge, founder of How Many
Elephants, unscored the importance of
collaborating with local people — particularly Indigenous communities — in
developing a more sustainable tourism model.
“By investing in local communities and Indigenous people — and I mean really
investing in them; bringing them into the boardroom and partnering with them,
rather than seeing them as tourist attractions — then they become the best
protectors of the wildlife and the wild spaces, and, in turn, your tourism
“When we talk about sustainable tourism, this is a more resilient form of
tourism that resists crisis,” said Frédéric Hocquard, deputy mayor of
Paris. COVID-19 is
the current top-of-mind crisis; but terrorism, civil unrest and unexpected
climate events have all recently impacted international tourist arrivals — a
trend the industry must consider moving forward. “We have to work toward tourism
that is centered and stronger, instead of depending on international flows,”
Dianne Dredge, founder of The Tourism
CoLab, pointed out that the last 18 months
have given people an opportunity to more deeply explore their own communities,
which has seeded unique opportunities for domestic tourism. Experiences like
walking tours and cooking classes led by Indigenous people and migrants have
become more popular over the last couple of years. “It’s locals who go on these
tours because they’re seeing their own place through a different lens,” she
Promoting local social enterprises such as these not only provides new avenues
for domestic travelers, it can also change the way inbound tourists experience a
destination. Robin Tauck, chair of Tourism
Cares, pointed toward the organization’s
Meaningful Maps, which it is
creating with destination partners to promote organizations about which tour
companies might not be aware. The Meaningful Map of
for example, highlights dozens of groups across the country beyond traditional
tourist sites such as Petra. “The Jordan Tourism Board has shown that ten or
up to fifteen tour companies and cruise companies coming into Aqaba have
actually changed their itineraries and added days in the destination,” Tauck
said. “The impact on these smaller groups that heretofore had not been
introduced to tourism was absolutely incredible.”
Generally speaking, people are becoming more aware of their environmental
footprint and the impact they have on people and the planet. This awareness can
be harnessed by the tourism industry to shift passive sea-and-sun tourists into
more actively engaged travelers.
Yolanda Perdomo, a global tourism strategist with
ICF, explained how a shared-values approach that
includes tourists as key stakeholders has benefited the Canary Islands.
“When tourists travel to Lanzarote, they can feel they are causing a
positive transformation — that they are doing something that leaves a legacy
there, and that there’s a connection to the place.” This has required a shift
away from the traditional tourism model, but the environmental and social
benefits far outweigh the short-term financial gain. “This is a long-term
strategy, and it has more value for locals,” she said.
“People who are traveling close by and far away have really been made aware
about what they’ve been doing, and it’s opened their eyes to supporting local
communities. Not just going and seeing their beautiful heritage sites, but
realizing that people are living there,” said Carol Savage, founder and CEO
of Not in The Guidebooks. “I believe that
people are becoming more conscious travelers.”
Published Sep 20, 2021 1pm EDT / 10am PDT / 6pm BST / 7pm CEST
JoAnna Haugen is a writer, speaker and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for her entire career. She is also the founder of Rooted — a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact and storytelling. A returned US Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer and intrepid traveler, JoAnna helps tourism professionals decolonize travel and support sustainability using strategic communication skills.