The meaningful mode of travel

This article is sponsored by TBWA Singapore.

For decades, tourism has been defined by volume – with cut-and-paste routes, cheap flights and more affordable accommodation, allowing frequent travel. Singapore residents’ outbound departures increased year over year, from 7.7 million in 2011 to 10.6 million in 2019.

Then came the pandemic.

It was only with the recent deployments of Vaccinated Travel Lane that international tourism has started to pick up again, with pent-up demand causing flights to sell out within hours.

But travel is at a real inflection point and companies in the industry face some big decisions. As they rush to welcome tourists again and begin resuming activities after a painful two years of the pandemic, they must recognize that the dynamics have fundamentally changed.

The pandemic has been a time of reflection and soul-searching for individuals, businesses and countries as a whole. After all, incessant travel has taken its toll on our planet, and the tendency to prioritize tourism dollars over the well-being of residents has destroyed the cultural fabric of some of the world’s most beloved destinations.

Kyoto is one of those cities where residents have enjoyed respite from the reckless crowds of tourists, with many locals voicing their willingness to forgo the $ 3 billion in annual tourism spending if that means keeping the city’s quiet culture. .

Likewise, after seeing how natural habitats have thrived thanks to a break from tourist crowds, Thailand has announced that it will now close its national parks for two to four months each year.

But this change of mind isn’t limited to the offer. It’s also changing demand behaviors, as many travelers rethink their entire approach for the better.

So how should travel companies adapt to this change?

Deep down, the journey has always been about exploring and connecting with different cultures. Intentional travel simply sets a meaningful new standard that prioritizes balance – finding fun and authentic new experiences that don’t take anything away from the environment, but also contribute to the development of local communities, enabling 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 lifestyles. They work closely with local villagers to co-create routes, redirecting 70% of the money to these communities.

In Australia, we recently witnessed a historic moment with the return of the Daintree Hand – the government returning Daintree National Park to the East Kuku Yalanji people, with the aim of making indigenous communities tourism leaders.

Looking for Sophie, in Singapore, is another example. Started by a few friends who believe travel can change the world for the better, it aims to deepen relationships with communities and support local small businesses. The philosophy behind his business is “to leave better places than we have found them”.

“This is ultimately down to the personal belief that business should and can be used as a force for good,” says Jacinta Lim, co-founder of Seek Sophie.

“I have seen time and time again in my travels and in my work, how someone starts out as a porter, then moves up the ranks to become a guide, and then starts a small tourism business which then employs other people in the communities. local, where otherwise there would be no jobs.

“From a traveller’s perspective, by supporting these small local businesses, they are helping the development of local communities – it’s a very powerful and simple way to create a positive impact.

The rise of community tourism is not limited only to small independent travel players. We saw the launch of Marriott International Have a good trip with Marriott Bonvoy in Asia Pacific – a program that enables guests to connect with local communities for rewarding trips, whether within their country or abroad. Some examples include planting corals in Okinawa or learning to cook local meals from surplus food which is then safely packaged and delivered to the needy in Bali.

When asked what excites him most about the future of travel, Lim said it was the large number of unique domestic travel operators that have emerged over the past two years.

“Due to the pandemic, they are using all their creativity to provide truly fascinating and authentic home experiences – like being able to go on a safari to the Northern Singapore Islands; a local beekeeping farm where you will taste 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 more.

And one way for tourists to really experience a country’s culture is to simply stay longer. The growth of remote working has allowed for a more flexible and unchecked way of life, blurring the lines between work and vacation.

Destinations and hotels around the world are already racing to become remote-working ready. Thirty-two countries, and more, now offer some form of digital nomadic visa.

Hotels promote “workcation” packages that include access to private workspaces, high-speed Wi-Fi and office essentials. And national parks in Japan and elsewhere are increasing Internet access in an attempt to attract teleworkers.

This change has also revived and transformed the role of the travel agent, especially given the hassles of post-pandemic travel (COVID testing, quarantines and mountains of documents).

The Nomadify The platform connects people with remote employment opportunities and expert advice. And programs such as Family work offer co-working pensions with affordable childcare and schooling, so parents don’t miss out on the remote working revolution.

The days of unlimited and seemingly guilt-free travel are behind us, as we expect an increasing shift from high volume to high value, and from “me” to “us” – where the most form of travel will come. rewarding and most lasting. when we spend more time immersing ourselves in communities and creating a positive impact.

To find out more, download the Future of Travel Report which explores this promising turnaround – by opening up key opportunities for disruptive growth and outlining specific ways for companies to act.

The author is Belynda Sim, Head of Cultural Intelligence and Senior Director of Strategy at TBWA Singapore.

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