MA students Megan McClelland and Andrea Specchio discuss the possibilities for tourism after coronavirus and what this break means for the travel industry.
Travel throwbacks are flooding our timelines and our suitcases that were once lined with sand from Kauna’oa Bay are collecting cobwebs. As for the travel industry, this pause presents major financial hardships as they try to refund travellers and pay their employees, in addition to obstacles for entrepreneurs to overcome when considering how they will enter or re-enter the travel economy.
For someone like CNC student, Andrea Specchio, who aspires to develop a service to help people be responsible travellers after her studies, this break presents the challenge of understanding the customer profile of a post-crisis traveller and ways to accommodate them. She believes that the best way to do this is to look at where the travel industry was heading before the pandemic (toward sustainability and conscious travel) and what the social values are at the present (chiefly, human connection, and mindfulness). How these social and environmental values manifest in actual travel practices is what Andrea refers to as responsible tourism.
What is Responsible Tourism?
Responsible tourism is a value-driven form of travel, centered around protecting the planet and giving back to the places that you’re visiting. I know what you may be thinking: I already am giving back to the place by spending money there. And as a matter of fact, yes you are. In a hypothetical scenario, the Euros you spend on petit dejeuner at a French café contributes, in some way, to the French economy. However, this exchange just barely scratches the surface of responsible tourism. Factors that need to be considered in our scenario include: whether or not the cafe was owned by a corporation or run by a family, where they get their ingredients from, and if they treat their employees properly.
The factors that make up responsible travel are not on our mind 24/7 when we’re out enjoying the landscape, gastronomy and architecture of another place. Luckily, there are resources available to help us plan out our trips with social and environmental responsibility in mind, like bookdifferent.com, so that we can make the most out of our experience once we arrive at the destination. This mission is also aligned with Andrea’s future business, MyJourney, which aims to foster responsible travel by offering conscious experiences and stays that are desirable for the modern tourist. As Andrea says, “the mission of MyJourney is to foster a mindful travel philosophy and empower travellers to drive a positive change while exploring the world.”
Why it’s Important
So often we travel to places with ecstatic abandon in an attempt to leave the doldrums and pressures of our everyday lives behind. You may experience the “It’s fine, I’m on Holiday” mindset, where you feel more relaxed about things, like using plastic cups than you ever would at home. Responsible tourism is the counter-response to the lax attitude often deployed during a holiday. The concept is growing in popularity and has been defined by the travel media company, Skift, as a macro trend for leisure tourism in 2020. The integration of this kind of travel is important because it promotes the health of the local economy, the preservation of cultural values, and environmental wellbeing. It’s also in alignment with how most of us actually want to travel and, moreover, live our lives coming out of the current crisis; as socially conscious, environmentally friendly people with a need for the real human connection that can be fostered by travelling.
How Traveler’s Benefit
When we travel mindfully, we end up planning our holidays in a fashion that is a true reflection of our values. A study by the Center for Responsible Travel shows that 70% of travelers have said they want to travel sustainably and 72% don’t know that there are eco-labels assigned to sustainable places to stay during their visit. Essentially, what responsible tourism does is help to realise the wants of the modern traveler, who is characterised by their desire to do better. The practice of responsible travel on the business end is to be a liaison or a provider of information to people who want to authentically experience another place’s ecological backdrop, learn from people about their culture, support the local economy and make an effort to conserve the environment. Ultimately, this holistic view of travel is designed to be a win-win exchange that fosters connections between local residents and travellers.
Considerations for Future Travellers
The postponement of our upcoming holidays means that we may be replanning some of our trips. This pause could be the catalyst for reconsidering how we travel and if there are any areas of our tourism practices that we can improve upon. By enriching the places we go to, instead of absorbing, we are able to foster more meaningful and fulfilling experiences while travelling. As future travellers, we can look out for companies, like Andrea’s MyJourney, that focuses on empowering travelers to make a positive change while travelling. One doesn’t need to travel perfectly, but travelling better would improve the quality of our stays – for us and for the places that we are visiting.
For more tips on how to be a responsible traveller, follow Andrea’s business page on Instagram at @be.myjourney.
Words by Megan McClelland, MA Fashion Media Practice: Fashion Journalism
Images by Andrea Specchio, MA Entrepreneurship: Fashion & Creative Industries