Slow Travel and Ecotourism
The Rise of Slow Travel, Ecotourism, and Adventure-Seeking Wandering.
It’s been a challenging few years for the tourism industry. Between closing borders and vaccination restrictions, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the entire sector into a tailspin, with tourist arrivals falling by more than 65 percent globally in the first half of 2020.
The worldwide standstill has also put millions of jobs at risk, as the crisis has been particularly felt in countries that rely on tourism for their GDPs, such as Thailand, the Maldives, and Greece. Still, slowly but surely, the industry is trying to get back on its feet — with exciting new trends to follow.
One of the most promising is the rise of slow travel and eco-minded tourism, promoting a more mindful way of visiting foreign lands as well as undiscovered gems right in your backyard.
If you’ve been looking to start traveling again but feel like your mindset has shifted, embracing the magic of slow travel might just be the answer!
More than an Instagram picture
So, what exactly is the slow travel trend all about, and why is it becoming so much more popular just now?
As the name suggests, slow travel rejects the convenience and urgency of conventional travel, defined by kerosene-guzzling planes and Airbnb weekend stays, in favor of more sustainable modes of transportation and longer stays. Slow travelers make the most out of local trains, public transport, and bicycles, while opting to stay in the same place for longer to savor its culture and meet locals.
Mindful travel looks beyond the famous “Instagrammable” spots and tourist traps to connect with the destination’s authentic nature, uplifting the local community in the process.
In the eyes of slow travelers, this makes for a much more enriching way of exploring the world. Going off the beaten path allows for adventure and helps you embrace the unknown, while spending weeks or months in a community pushes you to engage with a destination’s culture, politics, and history.
Slow travel is not a novel idea, but its newfound link with the concept of eco-travel is: As we’re coming to terms with the real consequences of the climate crisis, taking frequent flights for a short weekend break is starting to lose its appeal.
The rise of a slower, more sustainable way to travel stands in stark contrast to the trends that have defined the sector for years. Cheap airfare has largely become the norm, especially in Europe, leading to an unprecedented overtourism crisis in world-favorite tourist hotspots like Venice and Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The popularity of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb has exacerbated the issue even more. Crowded streets make for crowded housing markets, and major tourist destinations have hundreds of short-term rental properties congregating in their historic city centers. When investors scramble to secure investment housing in already crowded cities, it’s the locals that suffer: Affordable properties are turned into Airbnb rentals for travelers, and prospective homeowners and local renters are priced out of the area.
As cities like Amsterdam and Prague have stepped in to combat both the expansion of vacation rentals and overtourism, it’s become clear that conventional tourism is a double-edged sword: A lifeline for many countries yet a dent in cities’ livability.
The impact of the pandemic and the increased awareness of climate change have forced us to rethink the way we travel, much like they have changed the way we shop, eat, and go out.
Exploring new pathways in wandering
Of course, taking fewer flights and supporting local, independent hotels over Airbnbs is just the start. Eco-minded travelers will also avoid using single-use plastics (no matter how tempting that water bottle may be in the height of a Vietnamese summer!), and support local wildlife conservation efforts.
Some might even consider staying in their destination for longer and finding volunteer opportunities to give back to the local community, or joining a language course. Some even decide to stay forever.
Many travel agencies are already catching up with the trend by offering sustainable travel tours, including “charitable travel” options and “adventure travel” options that allow you to spend weeks hiking, staying with local hosts, and exploring breathtaking nature at your own pace.
In the wake of the Work From Home revolution, sustainable and mindful travel has become a viable option for those who have always dreamed of pursuing a deeper connection to faraway places. But could this be the future of tourism, when the inevitable “back to normal” finally comes?
Experts, almost unanimously, believe that slow travel and sustainable travel are here to stay — so where will you visit next?