Many people have remarked how the unexpected impact of COVID-19 brought opportunities to reset and change the way we view the world as well as changing our priorities. What if the tourism industry – and the traveller – did this too?
Tourism specialist and travel blogger, Nancy Molina, writes to Travel News' sister publication, Tourism Update:
“There is no other industry in the world like the travel and tourism industry. I know this is a bold statement, but I mean it. No other industry is able to connect people and places as profoundly as travel and tourism can, regardless of background, gender, race, culture, etc.
You have heard me speak and seen me write about this before because I truly believe that the travel and tourism industry can impact our world in a very positive way.
Unfortunately, travel is often perceived as a soft industry, unable to generate sufficient income for nations to thrive. However, the reality is that one in 10 jobs in the world are generated by travel and tourism, employing some of the most vulnerable members of society: women and youth.
When you combine the benefits of travelling (for those who can travel) and the economic benefits for those who host, you have in your hands something very special.
There are negative consequences of travel of course, as with any industry, such as gas emissions, over-tourism, neglected communities, exploitation of children and women, sex tourism and animal exploitation, amongst others. These challenge us to think and act smarter.
In the wake of this global pandemic – of which we are all very tired – we have the unique opportunity to think about travel differently and ask ourselves the following questions. Do we want travel to come back just the way it was? Do we want to keep all the old habits and continue as if nothing happened?
I believe that the answer to many of these questions is ‘no’ and that we are in fact looking to embrace a way of tourism that is more sustainable, more responsible and more ethical. But what does it all mean? Perhaps, time for all of us, as tourism partners, to get more serious and practical about fair wealth distribution, the boosting of local economies, equal opportunity/access to jobs, social and environmental responsibility.
To achieve this, we should evaluate our plans to travel keeping the following thoughts in mind:
There are areas all around us in each of our countries that could benefit from travel. In the South African context, provinces or areas that have been especially hard hit by the impact of lockdown (like the Northern and Eastern Cape) due to their remoteness. In this way we can attempt to support local communities and local business, being respectful of the places we visit and the people we meet.
Search for places off the beaten path, directing your travel money into places that invest in sustainable tourism and sustainable practices.
As I mentioned above, we have a unique opportunity to hit reset and change the way in which we spend and consume for the better. As a result, travel and tourism can become more and more sustainable, renewable and with positive lasting impacts.
Finally, recognising the potential of tourism as a factor for positive impact in the world and in our country is really important.
Understanding the impact we all have when we travel is a good starting point, as it brings accountability for our actions and sets us on a new path when we make decisions for our next destination.