Responsible TourismThe pandemic has given the tourism sector time to reflect on how they can build back a better industry for different types of travellers.

The five people you meet in travel in 2022

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Smaller destinations and sustainable tourism get the chance to shine in a post-pandemic landscape.
Smaller destinations and sustainable tourism get the chance to shine in a post-pandemic landscape. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/anon-tae

Aviation, and its slow journey to address carbon emissions, and the availability of trained manpower supply, are two of the key issues facing the travel sector as it begins the long road back from the Covid pandemic amid demands for a more sustainable industry.

These issues were highlighted by a group of eminent travel industry executives who spoke at The Economist’s webinar, ‘Rebuilding tourism in Asia Pacific: The year of the conscious traveller’.

There was general agreement that the pandemic has given the industry time to reset, to dive deeper into issues such as overtourism, to give smaller destinations a chance to shine, and to respond to the demands of the socially conscious, post-pandemic traveller.

“I think what's important for us is to set certain standards, baseline standards, with time frames, for reducing carbon emissions, for waste management, reducing water use and food wastage,” said Keith Tan, chief executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

And this from Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), “There is a responsibility on all sides to find ways to welcome tourism back without overwhelming the system.”

Looking ahead, the panel of speakers was asked to suggest ways in which sustainable tourism can help to build an equitable economic recovery in Asia. Here are some of their thoughts.

The new types of travellers emerging from the pandemic

The multi-purpose traveller:

The lines between traditional corporate and leisure travel are blurring as more people work remotely. Business and travel trips will be indiscernible as people take their work on the road. The travel industry needs to react to meet the diverse needs of the multi-purpose traveller.

The holistic traveller:

Consumers will have a heightened interest in protecting the environment and will make choices based around green vacations.

“Building tourism back better, requires the alleviation of overtourism in certain destinations in Asia,” said John Lee, director-general, department of tourism, innovation and sport with the Queensland government.

The digital traveller:

There has been a heightened awareness of the benefits of technology in reducing the risks of human interaction and travellers, including the older generation, are becoming more comfortable with its use. On the hotels side, technology has advanced the reduction in food waste and use of electricity and water.

“In Singapore, businesses are building their capabilities to use digital tools to offer more sustainable experiences for guests,” said STB's Tan.

The long-stay traveller:

People want more local tourism, and they want to limit the negative impacts of their footprint in that tourism space. One way to do that is to visit places for a longer period of time, places that are less centralised.

“This is the big fundamental change that's happening in our industry. It is incredibly dramatic and powerful shift,” said Theo Yedinsky, Airbnb’s global policy director.

The 'clean’ traveller:

Travellers, especially young travellers, will demand ‘cleaner’ travel. On land, the wider travel industry is finding ways to reduce carbon emissions, but the elephant in the room is the aviation industry.

“Aviation is years away from widespread use of sustainable aviation fuel and cleaner energy. That is a problem for all in travel tourism, even as we move to more trains and other modes of transport,” said Randy Durband, chief executive, Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

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