Rethinking travel in a post-pandemic world
Rethinking travel in a post-pandemic world
As a travel advisor, I want to encourage my clients to travel as sustainably as possible, and tend to only train with and support tour operators, cruise lines and resorts, that practice sustainable tourism. October’s social media topic is Cultural Communities. I was inspired to choose this topic and to write this blog post on Rethinking Travel in a Post-Pandemic World,, after attending one of G Adventures webinars a few weeks ago, and realizing that there needs to be a real and big (as in global) change in the way we travel. This is the first of three blog posts on the subject of sustainable tourism.
How our future travel can support local communities, protect wildlife and reduce the impact on the environment in which they live.
We all know that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was heading in the wrong direction. While the younger generation has been taking an interest in sustainable travel for a number of years, many people have probably never even heard of the concept.
Prior to the pandemic, people were jetting off at the drop of a hat for a weekend break, short business trips half way around the world for meetings that could realistically be done online virtually (pun intended) from anywhere. Others would look for last-minute, cheap all-inclusive packages at chain resorts to spend a week lazing in the sun, sipping cocktails and eating bland all-you-can-eat buffet food, never venturing off the resort.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a big eye-opener and a reality check, and it’s time we started rethinking the way we travel.
As airlines cancelled 80% of their regular flights, tourist hotspots shut down completely and streets in towns and cities around the globe became traffic free, we saw evidence of the world beginning to heal from the detrimental impact humans have had on the environment.
Wildlife began entering and exploring previously populated areas they’d been pushed out of by human development, waters in canals and urban rivers became clean and unpolluted, with a huge reduction in industiral smog, the Himalayan mountains became visible in the distance for the first time in decades.
While people sat at home complaining that their civil liberties were being taken away from them and the topic of conversation revolved around whether the pandemic was a hoax or not, the world began to breathe again for the first time in over a century.
However, on the other side of the coin, small communities across the globe that rely on tourism have been suffering the effects of almost the entire world shutting down its borders to international travellers. Loss of income from the cancellation of escorted tours, indigenous, cultural and heritage experiences, home and farmstead stays, arts and crafts sales, festivals and other cultural activities and events have devastated some of these small communities that rely solely on income from visiting tourists.
Endangered animals protected by organizations that provide safaris and other wildlife experiences have also been suffering due to the lack of income that pays their protectors. Local communities have resorted to killing endangered species for both food and income.
Sandals, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
So what can we do as travellers to help when we start travelling again?
Below are just three things we can do as travellers to help communities that rely on tourism, the environment, and wildlife when Canada, and the world, opens up to international travel again.
1. Consider travelling in our own backyard instead of internationally for a while
This may seem strange coming from a travel advisor, but there are several reasons to travel in your own backyard post COVID.
Canada has a huge backyard. When travel resumes between provinces, we can travel locally or across the other side of the country. So, even if you would normally travel abroad for your annual vacation, consider travelling in your own backyard for awhile first. Stay for a week in a log cabin in the Muskokas, go for a cruise along the St Lawrence River, arrange a ladies’ retreat at a local hotel & spa or go away with your partner for a romantic weekend at a vintage bed and breakfast.
A cottage in the Muskokas
Why is this important/beneficial?
Not only will it be better for the environment, especially if you’re travelling locally and don’t need to fly, but you’ll also be supporting your local economy as well as the Canadian economy as a whole, especially small businesses that have been suffering the most due to the pandemic.
Also, there are already signs that popular tourist destinations around the world will be in high demand as soon as we can travel internationally again. With so many cancelled flights, cruises and package vacations over the past few months, people who received future travel credits for trips they had to cancel have already started booking future trips for next year. Others who like to plan ahead have even booked travel for 2022 and even as far ahead as 2023.
There will also be a reduction in supply due to ships being pulled from fleets, reductions in flight schedules and limits on numbers allowed on group tours, at resorts, on cruise ships and on some modes of transportation.
You’ll also be able to experience more for your dollar. If you travel locally, you won’t have to pay to exchange your dollars for another currency, plus you’ll also be saving by not having to pay for a flight and expensive accommodations.
The additional benefit to you is that you’ll get to experience places and things you didn’t know existed by exploring locally.
It therefore makes sense to travel locally for a while post-Covid.
Misery Bay, Manatoulin
What options are there for travelling in your own backyard?
There are several transportation options and travel styles to choose from. If you’re travelling with family or a group of friends, you could go on a road trip in your own vehicle or hire a private bus. If you’re travelling solo you could book a seat on a national coach, join an escorted tour or travel by train.
You don’t have to travel far to discover and explore new and exciting destinations. If you’ve recently moved to a new area or, for some other reason, have not already explored the local area within a day’s driving distance of your home, you’re probably not aware of some of the attractions that are available to you right in your own backyard.
Check out your local tourist guide to see what you have been missing locally and make a goal to visit one new community or attraction at least once a month.
Stay in a local family-owned hotel, guesthouse or bed and breakfast for a romantic weekend away, or organize a spa retreat at a local spa resort with your girlfriends. Take your family on a camping trip to a nearby lake or travel to a nature reserve, conservation area or national park or go glamping if you prefer.
If you’re an active nature lover, hitch your bikes to the back of your car or trailer, and find the nearest lake or park to go cycling. If you’re not so active, pack a picnic, binoculars or camera and go bird watching or wildlife spotting (in designated areas, of course).
Look for rustic markets, country stores and art galleries in small villages, where you can purchase locally made foods, such as cheese, jams and chutneys, fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, or arts and crafts created by local artisans. Enjoy a meal with fresh, locally grown ingredients at a family-run restaurant.
If you like a beer or two, consider visiting a local craft brewer rather than purchasing from the beer store. Many craft brewers also serve meals, so make a meal of it!
A cottage in the Muskokas
Misery Bay, Manatoulin
Whirlpool Niagara Cable Car
2. Travel fewer times a year but stay longer at the destination to explore more.
Unless you’re travelling locally by car, bus or train, as in #1 above, instead of jetting off for weekends away, short vacations in the sun, or multiple trips a year to the same destination, save up your vacation time and spend longer at the destination so you can explore more and for longer.
Choose a destination you’ve never been to before to experience something new. Explore Longer. Check off a bucket list destination.
Why is travelling less and staying longer beneficial?
First off, it benefits the environment as you won’t be flying so often. With a reduction in the number of flights you take a year, you will help reduce the amount of pollutants in the air.
In the long term, it will also cost you less, as you’ll only be paying for one long-haul flight instead of several. Staying in the same accommodation for a longer duration usually works out cheaper than multiple short stays as you pay per week or month instead of per night.
By giving yourself longer to save, you can check off a bucket list destination and you’ll have a “dream trip” to look forward to. Looking forward to a dream vacation is one of the best motivations for happiness.
Staying longer also benefits the local economy at the destination you travel to. With more time in your destination, you’ll have more time to spend your dollars in the local community, especially if you choose to stay in family-run accommodations instead of at a brand resort.
By staying longer you’ll also have more time to explore and immerse yourself in the local culture and learn about the history and heritage. You’ll have more time to visit the iconic sights, as well as get off the beaten track and visit undiscovered gems.
Eifel Tower, Paris
How can you stay longer?
By taking fewer trips a year, you’ll have more time to save for a longer trip. A longer trip is also more affordable than several shorter trips. Often a month in rental accommodation or a guest house is less than four separate weeks. The nightly rate for a week is often much less than a weekend away.
Once you arrive at your destination (whether it’s an island in the Caribbean, Europe or a trip down under), you have the option to go on multiple excursions to explore the local area, book multi-stay accommodations in different cities or communities to get a feel for different parts of the country, or you can join an escorted group tour or a river cruise to explore several countries, or go island hopping via ferry or on an ocean cruise to get a taste of other countries or islands in the same region.
You can choose different types of transportation (self-drive, train, coach or boat) taking advantage of the most economical or environmentally-friendly option for the destination and your comfort and safety.
If a longer trip seems daunting to plan, don’t worry. Your travel agent can guide you towards the best, and most sustainable and environmentally-friendly, options and arrange everything for you.
Eifel Tower, Paris
Big Ben, London, England
3. Choose local. Support local.
When you do start travelling internationally, consider choosing homegrown businesses instead of international brands. If you really do want the amenities of a resort, choose one that supports and/or gives back to the local community such as Sandals.
Why is this important/beneficial?
Travel and tourism has beeen suffering badly during COVID-19 – both big and small businesses have been suffering. Staff at big resorts have been furloughed or laid off indefinitely, while small business owners as well as small communities that rely soley on tourism and do not have the backing of investors, have had little to no income during COVID-19 and have had to close down completely.
Small businesses are therefore suffering the most and will need the support of tourists when international travel resumes.
By choosing local and supporting local businesses (i.e. spending your dollars in homegrown businesses, not international resorts and stores), your dollars will benefit those small businesses as well as the local economy, which in turn benefits the local community. By spending your dollars locally, it will help speed up the finacial recovery of those small businesses and small communities that rely solely on tourism.
Not only that by you’ll have a better experience – by choosing local accommodations and eating locally, you’ll have a more authentic and immersive experience. Add to that the emotional benefit through reciprocity and karma, you’ll experience the feel good factor knowing you helped make a change for the better in someone’s life.
Saint Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy
How can you support local?
When and where possible, choose family run accommodations instead of a chain hotel or resort or consider staying in a family-run guesthouse or B&B for part of your stay. Choose to eat at family-owned and run eateries and food trucks. Even if you’re staying at a resort, perhaps go half board or bed-and-breakfast only so that you can eat out at local restaurants. Or each day choose to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner in the local community instead of at the resort.
Not only will this benefit the local community but it’ll benefit you too.Your experience will be much more enriching as you’ll be immersed in and learn about the local culture. With a more intimate stay and eating at family-run restaurants, you’ll likely learn from the owners and staff about their way of life, their customs and traditions. They may even share hidden gems for you to visit that only locals would know about.
If you really do want the amenities of a resort, choose one that supports the local community by using family-owned services and tour operators for excursions and other activities on and off resort and/or gives back to the local community.
Check to see what charity or nonprofit foundation they support, and how much they support and give back to the local community. Ask questions or look for answers to such things as: Do they give back a certain percentage to the local community? How much of each dollar that you spend with them goes back to the local community? Which local community organizations do they support?
Bed & Breakfast Apartment, Canary Islands
Book tours and experiences that use local indigenous guides. If a package vacation in a low budget all-inclusive hotel or resort is your only option financially, where possible, consider choosing an overnight tour or experience that includes a home stay so that you can support a local business. You’ll also benefit from learning about the local way of life, culture and traditions.
When you book an excursion, choose one that uses Indigenous guides that can educate you on the local history, heritage and culture, or that is locally family owned. Or choose excursions that take you to local establishments, local family run businesses, such as small vineyards or craft brewers, cheese or chocolate makers, craft stores.
Purchase handcrafted souvenirs made by local artisans When shopping for souvenirs to take home with you choose handcrafted products and artwork created by local crafts people and artisans, such as pottery, art work and jewellery, instead of buying souvenirs that are made in China or Taiwan unless you’re in China or Taiwan of course!