Glocal Tourism : the Future of Responsible Travel?

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Opinion / Profiles, Sustainable / Eco

Mark Bibby Jackson looks towards the future of travel, suggesting that it might be one where Glocal Tourism is very much to the fore, giving voice to those from within the travel community.

It is now a year since the eleventh hour cancellation of the ITB, traditionally the largest gathering of travel professionals in the world. Little did we then know how dramatic an effect Covid would have on travel and tourism.

Now, at last we can see some shoots of recovery within the sector.

The fast track vaccination programmes rolling out across much of the Globe indicate that the tail-end of 2021 will see a resurgence of international travel, albeit one that may require some form of vaccine passport.

Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism

The key question is what course that recovery will take.

While there is a clear suggestion that many travellers are just waiting for the green light to recommence budget holidays on the Continent, via Ryanair, EasyJet and the like, many are choosing to take a different route.

A report by Euromonitor International released at the ITB Berlin on 12 March, ‘Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism’, revealed that just over two thirds of “of consumers globally want to have a positive impact on the environment through their daily actions in 2021”.

The report takes into account a number of factors, including environmental, social and economic sustainability, in addition to the demand for sustainable tourism.

However, “only 55% of travel businesses implemented some form of sustainability strategy,” continued the report. This compares with 70% of companies within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector, for example.

There would appear to be a clear dichotomy between the type of responsible travel experience that many tourists want and those in practice being offered.

“Businesses need to resist chasing short-term volumes and focus on the long-term and value driven strategies for a sustainable recovery,” states the report.

UK Lagging Behind Europe

Sweden is leading the field in sustainable tourism credit: Roine Magnusson /
Sweden is leading the field in sustainable tourism credit: Roine Magnusson /

Unfortunately, at least according to the data from Euromonitor, the UK is lagging behind many of its European neighbours in terms of sustainable tourism.

Sweden tops the Euromonitor list followed by Finland (2), Austria (3), Estonia (4) and Norway (5). The rest of the top 20 is dominated by European nations, until Bolivia in 22nd spot.

The UK lags behind in 40th place, out of the 99 countries in the list.

Glocal Tourism

Currently, staycations appear to be very much in vogue. However, once restrictions on international travel become relaxed we can expect more and more people travelling overseas again. Many expect 2019 figures to be reached by 2022 or 2023.

Data provided by the UNWTO has revealed that 58% of travellers are placing more importance on sustainable tourism that creates a positive impact on the travel destination, writes Ciaran Wark in an article for Travel Begins at 40 on sustainable local tourism initiatives. This is what we call Glocal Tourism.

Typically such initiatives involve travellers booking tours run by local people that benefit local communities, with the money staying within the country, helping to foster a more sustainable tourism sector.

Tours by Locals is one company that specialises in such activities, as is the UK-based TravelLocal.

glocal tourism
Huw (left) with TravelLocal co-founder Tom

Huw Owen, co-founder of TravelLocal, tells Wark that such activities also enrich the customer experience.

“You are much more likely to get something different and interesting through a local company than you are through a western brand,” he says.

Local Voices on a Global Scale

This is why, at Travel Begins at 40, we have decided to work in conjunction with Atlantic Canada, the tourism authority that promotes the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to bring Atlantic Canada Voices.

This is a series of articles with local people working in the Canadian provinces, highlighting how they promote sustainable tourism, as well as working with local communities, and how the tourist can participate.

It might still seem a little way ahead, but international travel will recommence. Hopefully it will be with a much more locally-driven rather than profit-orientated direction than previously.

Who knows by ITB Berlin 2022, we might be talking about a wonderful new tourism sector that works to the benefit of the many rather than to the profits of the few. Now isn’t that something to really look forwards to after this longest of all winters.

Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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