TOUReason is about making travel and tourism purposeful. It is about identifying potential benefits of our virtual or physical travel activities. This is informed by our destination choices and it is outcomes-based. When we choose an activity such as hiking, trekking the forest, kayaking, bungee jumping, bird spotting, visiting places of worship or cultural hotspot, we do so particularly for leisure reasons. Often, we don’t think upfront about possible outcomes or personal impact of such an activity. For example, we don’t think how the adventure will improve our mental wellness, improve stress disorder or even improve our relationships. We simply approach these adventurous activities with a one-dimensional mind. We think about seeping champagne, wine and having a good time inputs (e.g bungee jumping and its thrill), outputs (intensity of activity) rather than potential outcome (how this bungee jump will improve my muscles or reflexes, overcome my fear and improve my overall wellness).
The post-Covid-19 era will see a different behavioral pattern in terms of travel and tourism. Travel will become more purposeful and selective. Many people will no longer travel for the sake of travelling. Leisure travelers, unlike business and medical travelers, will become circumspect. Responsible travel and tourism, as we know it, will move to a higher, new frequency level of TOUReason.
TOUReason is more than responsible travel and tourism. The latter focuses more on being socially and culturally aware, being aware of the impact of one’s actions.
According to the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism (2002), responsible tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable” (www.responsibletourismpartnership.org)
TOUReason is merely about the individual traveler or tourist. It seeks clarity or puts meaning towards a decision whether or not to travel. It forces the traveler to understand why he/she wants to travel? What he/she wants to experience and why? That is, what results does a person want to achieve once their trip is completed?
TOUReason is a learning and growing process, using tourism and travel as a medium of expression. It is about shared experiences and telling our own stories to strangers. It is about knowing the self through the eyes of others, about other people; their culture, way of life, way of thinking and most importantly, learning how communities co-exist with their natural environment. How they carry on with their daily lives, what they eat and what inspires them. It is about sharing your own experiences, in a way that impact on others and uniting all of humanity, thereby promoting sustainable development. At the end, TOUReason is about why we travel and not what we want to do, where and how.
Travel, as we’ve become accustomed to it, has to do with destination. A destination is a place where we go to physically. In order to do that, we spent time, money and effort. Surprisingly, this destination is not necessarily a place far away, but it can be somewhere in your neighbourhood, another town or a village nearby.
Although leisure travel is meant to be pleasurable, travelling could also become an emotional escape for a person who find it difficult to handle his/her own life challenges. In order to deal with own problems, they remove themselves from their toxic environment.
Travel and tourism are also elitist concepts, whereby only the select few can afford to go from place to place. In my entire life, I have been privileged to travel to several countries, both during business and leisure trips. I mention ‘privilege’ because if it wasn’t the business or official travel opportunities I had, I wouldn’t have known these countries:
In 2013, I surprised myself by making a solo travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, to attend a North Sea Jazz Festival. I love jazz dearly, but I could not afford a return flight ticket. I therefore used my loyalty points earned from my bank’s loyalty programme. The North Sea Festival is an annual, prestigious jazz event which brings together jazz lovers across the globe. The line-up consisted of all my favorite jazz icons.
Solo travel is about traveling to a destination and spending time alone. This sounded like a crazy idea as I spent five days of solitude in a hotel room. The only few interactions I had were with hotel and restaurant staff, people I didn’t know. My movements straddled between the jazz venue, local bar and a hotel. I considered this solo travel a pilgrimage. This is the time in my life when I did lots of soul-searching, and self-introspection. Everyone has demons. I was battling with this dichotomous relationship between my state of happiness or lack thereof, and questions about my life purpose. It’s true what Benjamin Franklin once said, that “many people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five”. I refused to become a statistic. I therefore embarked on solo traveling in search of answers.
TOUReason is aligned with solo travel. The latter is purposeful. Even current trends show a significant increase of solo travelers across the globe. According to Solo Travel Survey, there is a market opportunity for solo travelers. These results are backed by number of research findings. I selected the three below to illustrate this point.
|Klook concludes that solo travel continues to present promising business opportunities. “We commissioned a global Solo Travel Survey, of the nearly 21,000 people we surveyed around the globe, 76% indicated that they have either traveled alone already or are considering it – regardless of age, gender and nationality”.
Roughly one in four people say they will travel solo in the next year (2018) — and that’s on the rise, according to a survey of 2,300 people by marketing firm MMGY Global
Travel solo for relaxation. Agoda’s ‘Solo Travel Trends 2018′ survey, conducted by YouGov, found that relaxation and time to unwind is the number one motivator for solo leisure travel globally (61%)
Source: Solo Traveler (2020)
Solo traveler or not, I consider travel a basic need and a basic human right. Our quest to travel is informed by our personal circumstances, which are either motivated by affordability (leisure travel) or opportunity (business travel) presented to us. The business travelers are in the minority and not everyone can access business travel, unless you are high on the hierarchy of your organization.
With the advent of Covid-19 and the introduction of virtual conferences and meetings, many businesses will now take advantage of available webinar technological tools, thereby minimize business travel. Another factor which could contribute towards a possible decline in the travel market is the health and safety considerations, including budget constraints.
The good news is that more than ever before, travel is no longer the same. Anyone can now travel to their preferred destinations, thanks to e-Commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has unravelled the flipside of travel and tourism. Nowadays you can even visit a game park, without putting your foot there, in the comfort of your own home. For an example, SafariLIVE, an award-winning, LIVE safari, conducts virtual tours during specific hours, hosted by an expert game ranger, streamed directly from the park (www.wildearth.com).
Hopefully, one day I will have the opportunity to watch jazz, streaming live from some parts of the world or tour Machu Picchu, without having to travel to Peru. The virtual travel industry, its accessibility and affordability, has made TOUReason a reality.
The bad news is that any decline in traveling will hurt the workers, whose livelihood and earning potential is being impacted negatively. Indication is that “if the pandemic continues for several more months, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the trade group representing major global travel companies, projects a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue. Losses come daily; as of April 2, British Airways is reportedly poised to suspend 36,000 staffers” (www.nationalgeographic.com).
Besides the above-mentioned threat on the job market, people also say there is an opportunity in every crisis. The time is now to innovate the travel and tourism industry and most importantly, to serve our customers differently, remotely and satisfactorily. We also need to protect the earning potential of our workers by designing a new working environment, including re-skilling and re-training. These training programmes should align with the needs of a future traveller. Customer service as we know it today, will no longer be the same. That is, customer experience will become the new reason why people demand better, faster service, a better human connection, and a safe and healthy environment.
Private sector companies that operate in the hospitality and travel industry must design an innovative work-place, whereby workers, local communities and business become an integrated value package that delivers customer experience. As the saying goes, it is no longer about clean room, white sheets, sumptuous meal, a welcoming smile and hotel décor a traveller needs. It is also about the external operating business environment. It is about a hotelier tapping into the local resources, local people and the local market that define the operating model of a business. This operating model is informed by industry standards and norms. It is about responsible tourism implemented by socially responsive companies as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
TOUReason is a way of life. An antidote. A new way of doing things. A new way of thinking, travelling, exploring, healing and transforming. It took COVID-19 to show us what we have always been missing. CONNECTING with places, loved ones, strangers and HUMANITY at a scale never seen before. We have inadvertently created a new religion for serving and sustaining humanity. The aftermath of Covid-19 shows that we need to listen and commit to mother nature. We need to co-exist and protect our environment. Servicing nature is covenant. If we fail to do so, then we will falter at our own peril.