The kind of meaningful travel
This post is sponsored by TBWA Singapore.
For decades, tourism has been defined by volume – with copy-and-paste itineraries, cheap flights, and cheaper accommodations that make frequent travel possible. The number of overseas departures from Singapore residents increased from 7.7 million in 2011 to 10.6 million in 2019 compared to the previous year.
Then came the pandemic.
It is only with the recent introduction of the vaccinated Travel Lane that international tourism is picking up speed again, with the pent-up demand leading to flights being sold out within hours.
But travel is at a real turning point, and companies in the industry are facing important decisions. As they rush to welcome tourists back and begin their business rebound after two painful years of pandemic, they must realize that the dynamic has fundamentally changed.
The pandemic has been a time of reflection and introspection for people, businesses, and countries as a whole. After all, incessant travel has weighed on our planet, and the tendency to put tourism dollars above the welfare of residents has destroyed the cultural fabric of some of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
Kyoto is one such city where residents have enjoyed the postponement of ruthless tourist crowds, with many locals expressing their willingness to forego the $ 3 billion annual tourism spending if that means preserving the city’s tranquil culture.
Similarly, after seeing natural habitats thrive thanks to a break from the tourist crowds, Thailand announced that it will close its national parks for two to four months each year.
But this change in mentality is not just limited to the supply side. It also changes behavior in demand as many travelers rethink their entire approach for the better.
So how should travel companies prepare for this change?
At its core, traveling has always been about exploring and connecting with different cultures. Conscious travel simply sets a new and meaningful standard that puts balance first – finding new, fun, and authentic experiences that don’t take anything away from the environment, but also support the development of local communities, which allows traditions and heritage to flourish.
Local alike, a Thailand-based company, provides community-based and responsible tourism experiences where travelers can help preserve the environment, culture and local ways of life. They work closely with the villagers to create routes together and return 70% of the money to these communities.
In Australia we recently had a historic moment with the return of the Daintree – the government that is returning Daintree National Park to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people with the aim of turning indigenous communities into leaders of tourism.
Find Sophie, in Singapore, is another example. Founded by a few friends who believe travel can change the world for the better, it works to deepen relationships with communities and support small local businesses. The philosophy behind his business is “Leaving places better than we found them”.
“This is ultimately due to the personal conviction that business should and can be used as a positive force,” says Jacinta Lim, co-founder of Seek Sophie.
“On my travels and in my work, I have seen time and again how someone starts out as a porter, then works their way up to a guide, then founds a small tourism company that then employs others in the local communities where there would otherwise be no jobs.
“From the perspective of travelers, by helping these small local businesses, you’re helping develop local communities – it’s a very powerful and easy way to make a positive impact.”
The rise of community-based tourism is not limited to just smaller, independent travel agents. We saw the start of Marriott International Good Trip with Marriott Bonvoy in the Asia Pacific – a program that enables guests to connect with local communities for meaningful travel domestically and internationally. Some examples include planting coral in Okinawa or learning to prepare local meals from excess food that is then safely packaged and delivered to those most in need across Bali.
When asked what she’s most excited about about the future of travel, Lim says it’s the sheer number of unique domestic tour operators that have popped up in the past two years.
“Because of the pandemic, they are using all of their creative powers to create truly fascinating and authentic inland experiences – such as a safari to the North Islands of Singapore; a local bee farm where you can try durian honey; and being able to see Singapore’s hidden kelongs up close. And it’s not just Singapore – it’s Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and many others. “
And one way for tourists to really experience a country’s culture is to simply stay longer. The rise of teleworking has enabled a more flexible and anchorless way of life, blurring the lines between work and vacation.
Destinations and hotels around the world are already racing to become remote work-ready. Thirty-two countries, and growing, are now offering some kind of nomadic digital visa.
Hotels are promoting “workcation” packages that include access to private workspaces, high-speed WiFi and office supplies. And national parks in Japan and elsewhere are increasing internet access to attract teleworkers.
This shift has also revitalized and transformed the role of the travel agency, especially given the problems with post-pandemic travel (COVID tests, quarantines and mountains of documentation).
the Nomadify Platform connects people with remote job opportunities and expert advice. And programs like Family work offer co-working retreats with affordable childcare and schooling so parents don’t have to miss out on the remote work revolution.
The days of limitless, seemingly guilt-free travel are behind us as we anticipate an increasing shift from high volume to high value and from “me” to “us” – where the most rewarding and sustainable form of travel will come when we spend more time doing it to immerse yourself in communities and make a positive impact.
To learn more, download the. down Future of the travelogue that examines this hopeful turnaround – opens up important opportunities for disruptive growth and shows concrete measures for companies.
The author is Belynda Sim, Head of Cultural Intelligence and Senior Strategy Director at TBWA Singapore.