Just last week, the biggest tourism organization in the world, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), chose our country to be the venue of the 2021 Adventure Travel Conference and Mart, Asia Pacific’s leading travel trade exhibition dedicated to the adventure travel industry.
The hybrid event, hosted by the Department of Tourism, had its physical activities centered in Clark, where international tourism experts presented evolving trends, opportunities, and issues in the industry, while the latest unique and sustainable adventure products were showcased for two days.
A total of 14 global tourism experts spoke on a variety of interesting topics, including “Delivering What The Next Generation of Adventure Travelers Want”, “Resiliency Is The New Sustainability”, and “Quick Fire Presentations on Culinary, Heritage, Wellness, and Ecotourism”. I am deeply honored and privileged to have been chosen as one of the speakers, with the topic, “Recalibrating Tourism Standards Towards Restoring Travel Confidence”.
The two-day session was attended by several hundred buyers and sellers from all over the world. It had very interesting key takeaways related to various sectors of, and issues in, the industry: Adventure tourism is now being recognized as a global tourism trend, and tourists will now be shifting their attention to new destinations and experiences. Younger generations will be the ones to lead the recovery of adventure travel because, once vaccines make it safe for travel to resume, these young travelers will finally satisfy their pent up craving for travel.
Our country learned from the six-month closure of Boracay that our tourism industry should pay more attention to destination management instead of destination promotion. The overtourism in Boracay led to its downfall.
Our island attractions should be wary of their carrying capacities, especially now that we have created circuits in different provinces, connecting attractions that highlight local cuisines and culinary heritage. Also, instead of creating food guides and directories to attract culinary travelers, it is more effective to focus on the destination’s unique selling propositions, such as the faces behind the places, and seek sustainable partners to help sell the memories and stories of local food.
What was clear through the various talks during the event is that 65 percent of travelers want to see physical changes that make them feel safer before they start traveling again. Therefore, destinations and travel brands should transparently share with customers the efforts they have made towards this goal.
Giving importance to woman power, the consensus of the event’s participants was to keep women at top of mind, by ensuring their retraining, upskilling, improving their digital engagement, and providing them leadership opportunities, thus making way for a more equal recovery for all of us involved in the industry.
The segment deemed to be “quality tourists” comes with the highest price to local communities, which will see more benefits by offering these visitors many interesting facets of the place. This is very important because many of our small island destinations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Many have done well from a health perspective because of border closures, but this came at the cost of losing their small domestic tourism markets.
As to how other countries affect our recovery, the trend of growing disposable income among the younger generation in China will lead to a rise in adventure tourism because it is their new way to show off wealth and status. Since the pandemic, destinations have been seeing growth in adventure products that were not domestically in demand, which implies that there will be a significant desire for these experiences internationally.
In Malaysia, the general segment of adventure travelers will be looking for soft adventures, such as camping and hiking. However, travel brands must keep in mind that price will be a significant barrier because of high global exchange rates.
Tourists from India may be more hesitant to participate in adventure travel because of concerns from family members, but factors like higher incomes and the ‘‘Bollywood effect’’ (young Indian travelers are influenced by what they see in their movies) have helped relax this barrier.
Most importantly, those of us in the industry must change our attitude and shift from thinking in the short term to planning for the long term. We must keep conservation as the compass of the destination, as this will influence the kinds of plans, decisions, and developments that we make. If we can adopt this view alongside creativity, we will see great outcomes.
This is why I always look forward to international tourism events like this one. The lessons I take home further strengthen my grasp of the industry that has nurtured me since I got my college diploma.
YOUR WEEKEND CHUCKLE
I could never have a romantic relationship with a tennis player. LOVE means NOTHING to them.
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