The United Nations has named 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Travel, and it’s with good reason: there has never been so much interest and engagement surrounding how we can enhance the experience of travel by making it more sustainable both for the planet as a whole and for the individual communities we travel to.
For the 3 years, Authenticitys has been part of this movement, building an online marketplace for local and sustainable tourist activities by collaborating with social impact experience operators. Last month, we gathered at our headquarters in Barcelona to take stock of all we have achieved and everything we are looking to build in the future.
We are continually inspired by our diverse local partner organizations who find innovative ways to address problems and promote solutions in the cities where they are based.
At 2016’s annual summit, we were joined by three of our partners including Quest-own from Berlin, which is a tour based on aboriginal rituals; Open Eyes Project from New Delhi, which introduces local community traditions to tourists while helping local families; and El Viaje de Mamadou in Barcelona, a bicycle tour that benefits immigrants and Senegalese education programs. Through these partner presentations and other discussions, four major themes questions emerged at this year’s summit.
How to communicate the importance and excitement of sustainable travel to millennials?
Having been on the cusp of adulthood at the advent of the digital era, millennials almost invariably head online when they’re ready to go abroad. There is no question they are a key demographic in the growth of sustainable travel moving forward. The question is how we can align this digital-first attitude with an attitude that prioritizes sustainability when it comes to travel.
With creative ideas like embedding a Snapchat challenge into local experiences, our participants came up with ways to create a three-way exchange between millennials, tourists, and locals. Mobile-focused innovations like these are more likely to have multiplying impacts when compared to a regular static or offline tour.
Picture by SONIA PAVÓN
How to differentiate Authenticitys offering in the growing industry of sustainable travel?
It’s very exciting that there is so much innovation and momentum in the sector of sustainable travel, but it is also a strong indication that inertia and complacency are not an option if we want to make long term change.
As bigger companies like Airbnb are beginning to integrate localized, small-scale travel tours into their global offerings, it’s essential that platforms like ours continue to innovate at the cutting edge of the industry and push the sector even further in the direction of progress.
What impact the average traveler is hoping to have on a city it visits?
Travelers all have different things they are seeking when it comes to making an impact on the city they discover. However, a common thread that drives many of them is curiosity, or the pursuit of knowledge as well as unique experiences. However, expectations can also differ based on factors such as if the country is developed or developing.
A traveler to a developing country might be more driven by food and architectural heritage, whereas a traveler to a less-developed country might be seeking activities that help preserve local but lesser-known traditions. Another variable is based on the age of the traveler.
If both older and younger travelers are equally likely to be driven by social impact, young travelers are more seeking for unique hands-on ‘extreme’ experiences, while older travelers seek for more educational journeys. These are key factors to keep I mind when designing experiences intended for conscious travelers.
And what will the travel industry look like in ten years?
As there is an increasing middle class with a disposable income making travel possible, it appears clear that the industry has a tremendous potential for growth. This raises some urgent issues for the industry. Indeed, if the trend continues in this vein, traveling will not be sustainable and, in the long-term, it will have to stop due to its negative feedbacks.
It is therefore crucial to raise awareness and promote sustainable traveling as the new solution.
See all pictures by Sonia Pavón of our Annual Summit 2016: