Walking the good talk

We have crossed the mid-year mark so swiftly. Time flies especially fast when you are busy attending to pent-up travel needs and catching up on years of lost business. Back in April, the World Travel & Tourism Council published an industry performance report stating that the travel and tourism sector was “catapulting” into 2023. What a welcome verb!

The sector is expected to reach US$9.5 trillion this year, just five per cent below 2019 pre-pandemic levels when travel was at its highest. Thirty-four countries had already exceeded 2019 levels back in April.

And as we catapult through these critical months and return to the rat race, it is good to see that years of promising to build tourism back better have not given way to eager profit pursuits. The content we carry in this issue provides encouraging proof.

Hotels are intensifying their environmental-focused pursuits (yes, more than just cutting out plastic straws), which are leading to improved experiences for guests, be it through architectural designs that bring soothing nature indoors or meals that are big on flavour and small on emissions.

Silversea Cruises, in chasing its ambitions to be an ultra luxury cruise line with the best in class destination experiences, is distancing itself from same-old shore excursions and choosing instead to work with NTOs and real destination specialists to identify hidden gems and spread tourism deeper into destinations.

New Zealand’s tourism players are more determined than ever to make regenerative tourism the core of what they do, providing travellers an opportunity to contribute positively to the country’s environment and community development.

Building on its move last September to make tourism accessible to visitors of all physical abilities, Queensland has gone on to designate 2023 as the Year of Accessible Tourism. Demonstrating that it is doing more than just talk, the Australian state is pumping A$12 million into making sure accessible tourism goals are met.

Beyond singular destinations, UNWTO is moving into the third edition of its Best Tourism Villages initiative, established in 2021 to identify and support the world’s most outstanding tourism villages that are able to drive rural development and local well-being. This initiative has recognised more than 70 tourism villages from almost 40 countries. Among these, only 14 are in the massive and culturally-diverse Asia-Pacific region. Hence, it is no surprise that UNWTO is especially keen for more tourism villages here to come forward for assessment.

All these initiatives and more, from developing destinations responsibly to support tourism dispersal to making tourism accessible to everyone, answer the increasingly urgent call for quality tourism – where tourism isn’t extractive and benefits only travellers and businesses, and where consumers understand that their ability to explore someone else’s home is a privilege and they must leave it better than how they had first found it.

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