Written by László Puczkó
From Travitude to Notriphobia
Bombarded by ‘We Are Open!’ messages? Dreaming about the first trip after two years of uncertainty or lockdown? Getting accustomed to the ‘new normal’ of travelling much less? Does any of these questions sound familiar?
Not only travel and leisure, but every aspect of our lives have been hindered by the global pandemic. Apart from the severe negative consequences we need to mention a couple of positive ones, too. One of which is the growing interest in sustainability and anything related to that phenomenon.
Sustainability is not new. It has been discussed, debated and even being implemented at places for several decades now. Still, the role of humankind in the future of the planet (and the present of the planet added to that!) has become really real recently. This is not only because of the pandemic but also because of the involvement of young activists, worries about energy shortages, political instability at many locations, etc.
The UN’s 17 Sustainability Development Goals have now been referred to not only by NGOs but also by politicians, corporations and even customer groups (at the end of the article you can find a link to read them). There are noble goals and many may have direct impact on travel and leisure as well. Not independently from the above before the pandemic there were heated debates about overtourism, i.e. tourism that overloaded destinations and went beyond the carrying capacity of the community and/or nature. Due to the pandemic such debates have very likely changed to undertourism, i.e. how to sustain the economy and community having no tourism at all?
Travel either international or domestic has become a very integral part of life in most parts of the world. The pandemic took that part of life of away and many people developed ‘travitude’ – a grumpy mood from lack of traveling. Destination service providers became desperate. Many needed to close doors. Employees left the industry for good.
In such critical situation it appears that potentially four key factors can influence travel decisions – apart from government regulative measures. These are:
- Distance from Home
- Location Characteristics
- Extreme Personal Desires
- Brand Characteristics.
It appears that the market now shows signs of extremities and very volatile circumstances. Both ends of the very same spectrum of the above chart may represent equal business opportunities. Sustainability orientation may play important role in the midst of all:
–Distance: The estimated carbon footprint of the travel and potential offset options can become decisive factors. One may want to avoid becoming victim of ‘flightshaming’ and picks a location available by car or train.
–Location: Hidden, secluded locations with small capacities may have less exposure to the pandemic and represent more localised and limited impacts as well. On the contrary, however, popular and busy locations can implement more effective impact control measures and systems.
–Desires: Many apply the so called ‘revenge spending’ scheme, i.e. take ‘revenge’ on COVID19 and spend more than otherwise would on a trip. One may decide to bringing bucket-listed trips ahead since uncertain travel conditions can hinder such plans for undefined period of time.
–Brands: International brands have rolled out new COVID19 certified and more environment conscious protocols that can provide the necessary trust, whereas smaller, ‘unbranded’ operations may appear to be more flexible, personal, and consequently safer and can adapt greener policies faster.
The European Travel Commission (ETC) has just released its new study titled ‘Impact of COVID19 on Sustainable Tourism Attitudes’ (also linked at the end of the article) revealing four distinct clusters:
1- Frontrunners: Low-footprint travellers with the highest likelihood of adopting sustainable travel behaviour in the future. The cluster with the strongest biospheric and altruistic value orientation.
2- Comfortable Crowd: Habitual low-footprint travellers with interest in alternative destinations in ones’ proximity and in travelling in low season. The cluster members have weaker biospheric value orientation than the Frontrunners.
3- Entitled Stewards: Medium-footprint travellers who are less likely to compromise on location and time of travel but willing to adjust otherwise. The cluster members have weaker biospheric and altruistic value orientation than the Frontrunners and the Comfortable Crowd.
4- Laggards: Habitual high-footprint travellers with the lowest level of likelihood for considering sustainable alternatives in the future. The cluster with the weakest biospheric and altruistic value orientation.
No surprise that one of the final observations of the ETC study states that ’Constraints found to have a significant impact on the likelihood of adopting more sustainable travel practices in the future are money and time’. The pandemic gives the opportunity to providers to introduce their SDG17 matching initiatives to customers, since they appear to be more open and interested. This is a great chance to both industry and customers as well as to the planet!
Industry can find new outlets that can help service improvements such as immersive experiences, regenerative trips. Especially regenerative trips can come in two ways since travel can help to regenerate the mental and physical state of the traveller post-pandemic and at the same time travelling to a destination can provide the much needed economic benefits that help to regenerate to destination and its community as well!
It is assumed that sustainability can be better introduced and translated to travellers under the term of ‘responsibility’. A responsible behaviour along the whole journey from planning to return certainly does contribute to many SDGs! The mental stress of the pandemic has made the wellbeing phenomenon as important as sustainability. This leaves the industry with the opportunity to combine to two. Shifting the current user/customer/patient (UX/CX/PX) experience focus to a more responsible wellbeing oriented experience approach (rWX) may represent the way ahead. With such new approaches we can avoid the growth of ’notriphobia’ – i.e. the fear of not having any trips booked!
The links mentioned in the Article:
- 17 Sustainability Development Goals : Global Partnerships – United Nations Sustainable Development
- Impact of COVID-19 on Sustainable Tourism Attitudes: Sustainable Travel in an Era of Disruption: Impact of COVID-19 on Sustainable Tourism Attitudes – ETC Corporate – ETC Corporate (etc-corporate.org)
Dr. László Puczkó
Managing Director – Xellum Ltd
Founder of Hungary-based Health Tourism Worldwide (HTWW) – successor to The Tourism Observatory for Health, Wellness and Spa) – László Puczko has been working in the field of travel and health for 20+ years. A wellbeing experience engineer, economist, strategist, and arts & design manager experienced in both private and public sector environments, he has been lecturing and running customized training, masterclasses, and development projects in over 40 countries all around the world. Actively involved both in the industry as well as academic arenas, and author of numerous industry reports and publications, László is also a hot spring and wellness enthusiast.
He is the (co-)author of numerous specialised books (e.g.: Health and Wellness Tourism, Impacts of Tourism (in English), Az attrakciótól az élményig (From attractions to experiences), Turizmus történelmi városokban (Tourism in Historic Cities) (in Hungarian)) and articles in professional journals.