While we’ve spent more time at or closer to home than maybe we were previously accustomed to, the coronavirus pandemic has also heightened a deep sense of connection to the people around us.
Around the world, communities have rallied together like never before. The concept of staying local has ignited a sense of pride and solidarity in many of us that is set to remain as we look ahead, not only in our day-to-day lives, but also as we become more thoughtful about exploring outside of our own communities again. This pause in taking trips has enabled travelers to reflect on what they have missed most about traveling further afield, and the vital role local culture plays in their overall vacation experience.
Annual sustainability research by Booking.com reveals how many travelers report wanting to experience a deeper cultural understanding of a destination and to help local communities flourish again.
73% of travelers say that they are now determined to have genuine experiences that reflect the local culture when they next travel; whether this means dining in authentic restaurants or participating in workshops run by the local community. Authentic experiences especially resonate with travelers from Thailand (85%), Vietnam (84%) and Croatia (82%).
Community-based sustainable travel initiatives aren’t new, with companies big and small exploring innovations in this space. In addition to looking at ways to integrate more of these options into its own offering, they also support and mentor those in the wider industry, including startups and organizations focused on connecting travelers with authentic local experiences that are truly beneficial to the local communities where travel is taking place.
This includes alumni from Booking.com’s accelerator program such as Community Homestay Network, a platform for primarily women-operated community-based homestays in Nepal focusing on inclusive economic empowerment, cultural immersion and community uplift, and IMPULSE Travel who create, operate, and promote tours that allow travelers experience Colombia from an authentic, local perspective.
This people-first focus extends to where we want to allocate our vacation dollars too, with 68% of global travelers revealing they want the money they spend when traveling to go back to the local community. 76% say they will do activities/see sights to ensure that their economic impact is spread equally across all levels of society locally, whether that’s shopping at small independent stores or having authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture. Travelers from Brazil (85%), Italy (84%) and Spain (82%) report being the most committed to doing this. This is an encouraging indication that when it is safe to travel again, travelers will be thinking about how their trips can have a more long-term, regenerative effect which can help support communities.
As part of a future where we are increasingly mindful of having a positive impact on the places we visit, it’s clear that more and more travelers will be on a mission to experience a deeper cultural understanding of the destinations where they spend time, which will in return help the recovery of local communities to ensure they can start to flourish again.