More thought go­ing into travel des­ti­na­tions

Cape Times - - NEWS - Al­li­son Foat Foat is a pub­li­cist, ex­plorer, travel writer, pho­tog­ra­pher and blog­ger

The more con­gested it is, the less ap­peal­ing it be­comes

HOL­I­DAY hot lists have landed and un­pre­dictable ex­change rates and eco­nomic chal­lenges not­with­stand­ing, global leisure travel is look­ing bullish and set to gen­er­ate close to $1.40 bil­lion (R1 tril­lion) in 2018.

As rep­utable sur­veys flood the in­ter­net space, nu­mer­ous con­sumer buy­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties have been iden­ti­fied with seam­less mobile op­ti­mi­sa­tion, in­flu­encer-based de­ci­sion-mak­ing, cruis­ing, per­son­al­i­sa­tion, skip-gen­er­a­tional travel, chat­bots, women trav­el­ling solo and “bleisure” (busi­ness com­bined with leisure) be­ing just a few of the front run­ner trends.

How­ever, as global warm­ing, habi­tat loss and the planet’s plas­tic pol­lu­tion cri­sis move cen­tre stage through earth ad­vo­cates like Lewis Pugh, trav­ellers are plan­ning their get­aways more con­sciously and the over­ar­ch­ing theme of Re­spon­si­ble Tourism is on the rise. En­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion is a di­rect threat to the liveli­hood of many and the con­ser­va­tion cry to pre­serve fauna and flora and to re­spect peo­ple has spiked an in­ter­est in “vol­un­tourism” char­ity projects and “last chance tourism” book­ings to places like the Arc­tic and the Mal­dives and re­gions that may not be recog­nis­able or ac­ces­si­ble in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture. Eth­i­cal trav­ellers are shun­ning an­i­mal ex­ploita­tion for en­ter­tain­ment and adopt­ing a “leave no trace” pol­icy through con­certed ef­forts to lower their car­bon foot­prints.

Travel agen­cies, prac­ti­tion­ers, hos­pi­tal­ity brands, tour op­er­a­tors and desti­na­tion mar­keters across the world, now un­der more scru­tiny than ever be­fore, are stream­lin­ing their of­fer­ings to meet the shift to­wards sus­tain­able travel.

“These types of trav­ellers are 38 to 57% more likely to book travel with brands based on their sus­tain­able prac­tices,” says Dan­ica Hel­frich of Big Am­bi­tions SA. Trav­ellers (70%) be­gin by do­ing their re­search and reser­va­tions on mobile de­vices on the move and are also en­gag­ing with pro­gres­sive travel prac­ti­tion­ers to fur­ther fine-tune their jour­neys and curate be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences that take them off the typ­i­cal tourist beat.

“Overtourism” is caus­ing stress among the cit­i­zenry of cities like Venice, which re­cently banned be­he­moth ocean lin­ers from en­ter­ing wa­ter­ways close to its his­tor­i­cal cen­tre, and Barcelona, bom­barded by 32 mil­lion tourists last year alone, has be­come bla­tantly tourist-pho­bic.

It seems the more pop­u­lar a place and the more con­gested it is, the less ap­peal­ing it be­comes. Slow, calm travel, like barg­ing lethar­gi­cally through the French coun­try­side or drift­ing down the canals of Am­s­ter­dam are fre­quently op­tioned above fre­netic tour itin­er­ar­ies. Se­ri­ous trav­ellers these days, averse to mass tourism, pre­fer to im­merse them­selves in the “5 C’s” – cul­ture, cui­sine, com­mu­nity, con­tent and cus­tomi­sa­tion – ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts.

Ho­tels, hos­tels and B&B’s are step­ping up to meet green trav­eller ex­pec­ta­tions as well. Ev­ery ho­tel en­ter­prise in Sey­chelles in­te­grates sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices in their busi­ness op­er­a­tions, and luxury brands like Anan­tara, rep­re­sented in 13 coun­tries, has ini­ti­ated sev­eral up­lift­ment and eco projects such as man­grove re­gen­er­a­tion and street ele­phant res­cues in Thai­land.

As for top des­ti­na­tions on the radar this year? Sights are set on Malta, Mon­tene­gro, Ar­gentina, Nepal, Swe­den and New Zealand, among oth­ers, with Tur­key bounc­ing back af­ter a chal­leng­ing few years. In Africa and along­side, Kenya, Botswana, Zanz­ibar, Mau­ri­tius and Reunion are prime.

It is an­tic­i­pated that South Africa will draw close to 15 mil­lion tourists to its shores and to the Mother City, Cape Town, one of the most de­sir­able and bio­di­verse cities in the world.

“You can­not get through a sin­gle day with­out hav­ing an im­pact on your sur­round­ings. You have to de­cide what kind of a dif­fer­ence you want to make,” said Dr Jane Goodall.

Let’s not love our des­ti­na­tions to death.

AN­I­MALS: The writer Al­li­son Foat walk­ing with ele­phants at the Ele­phant Na­ture Park sanc­tu­ary in Chi­ang Mai, Thai­land – an eth­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to rid­ing these gen­tle crea­tures.

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