Travel has improved over the years in some ways, but it has come off the rails in others. It's great that a journey from Europe to the U.S. takes eight hours instead of several weeks in the hull of a rat-infested sailboat boat, but tourism is also homogenising the planet's cultures and growing unsustainably.
How can Stockholm, for example, find room for twice as many tourists in the summer in popular areas where it's already so crowded that visitors can barely walk down the street? And with the packaged, tight itineraries that whisk visitors from one attraction to the next, how are they supposed to make natural contact with locals?
Doug Lansky, travel writer and tourism industry advisor, lists the five steps he believes need to be taken to find the perfect balance of tourism: sustainable, profitable, and authentic travel.
Do you agree with him?
Most things that affect a destination's growth are out of its control (economy, exchange rate, war, terrorism, disease... either in that destination or their main competitors) but of the things it can control, one of the main things that can make it less popular is overcrowding. When a place feels too popular and gets long queues, crazy high prices, no room to sit on the beaches, the visitor experience drops and so does the desire to visit.
Hotels and airlines should also be thinking about the overall visitor experience -- not just the hotel and airline experience. They've invested in the destination and it's in their best interest that it stays popular. That means quality control in the destination (e.g .properly cleaned beaches), new brand-aligned attraction developments to give people a reason to return, and keeping an eye on sustainable growth.
People aren't typically flying in just to sit on a plane or sleep in a hotel; they're there for the experiences and attractions.
The reason that people visit destinations is because they're looking for something they can't find at home... it may just be sun or mountains, but it's also a cultural experience. So consider keeping your destination as unique as possible. You don't want it to look and feel like everywhere else.
Hotels can encourage visitors to follow their interests and meet locals. Ask people what they like to do and make a quick call to some clubs and help pair visitors up with locals who share their hobbies. (eg "You like bird watching? Let me ring up our nearby birding group and see if you can join them on an outing this weekend.") It's a free, authentic and completely personal experience. And if your hotel doesn't do this, there's nothing stopping you from making that call or writing that email yourself. Nearly every local club can be found online.
Destinations must make sure they can deliver on the marketing. If you're putting a rainbow or pristine beach in your brochure, make sure you can provide one. Are you hinting that you can deliver Northern Lights? Or a nearly vertical whale breach? Or that people will have an entire beach or valley to themselves? You might be just building visitors up for a huge disappointment – not a great formula for positive word-of-mouth or return visitors.
Do you agree with Doug? What do you think are the main problems facing travel? And how can they be fixed? Tell us in the comments below.
Doug Lansky is an American travel writer and tourism industry advisor based in Sweden. He is the author of the thought-provoking new visual book, TRAVEL: The Guide. Find more on Doug on his website, www.douglansky.com.
Main image: Crowd of tourists, Prague (Shutterstock)
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