Effecting change in travel purpose

The virtuous rebound expectation has yet to be fulfilled

There have been many predictions made at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic about how travel and tourism would return when borders reopen. The most popular vision is that travellers, having had the chance to reflect on life during the lockdown, would approach travel and tourism with greater responsibility, choosing to spend their money with sustainable hospitality suppliers and to give back positively to destinations they visit.

This virtuous rebound expectation has yet to be fulfilled. Travellers in general who have resumed their holidays, albeit locally, are mostly going for convenient resort locations or the best deal in town. On the other extreme end, ultra-lux holiday-makers are favouring ‘safecations’ – worry-free sojourns offered through exclusive resort buyouts to ensure the ultimate in safe distancing.

Perhaps it is still early days in travel and tourism recovery – some Asian governments are still swinging back and forth on movement restrictions as new waves of infections emerge, making it a challenge to plan a decent trip. Perhaps when conditions are more conducive for a stable recovery may we then see a true appetite and intention of travel taking shape.

I maintain a degree of doubt that mankind will emerge from this pandemic with a revolutionary awakening that travel is a privilege and travellers must give back positively to destinations and natives they interact with. Instead, I expect this change to start small – with the luxury travel segment. After all, the wealthy have been ahead of other traveller segments in discovering the joy of transformational and meaningful travel. They have long graduated from the need to grab the most shots at destination landmarks, or to brag about having been there and done that.

An effective agent of change, I believe, is the travel supplier community. A consistent move towards sustainable and responsible travel needs to start with programming, by ensuring that featured activities and contractors support host destinations, communities and local conservation efforts in some form.

There is no need for a quantum leap in travel and tourism habits; small changes today can still be beneficial tomorrow.

Karen Yue is group editor of TTG Asia Media. She sets the editorial direction for the company’s stable of travel trade titles and platforms, and produces content for them as well.

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