The coming back to “normal” after Covid-19 is not a possibility. We cannot continue maintaining the idea of the past being normal. In many ways, it was not. The travel industry was responsible for 8 % of global greenhouse emissions; it caused air and noise pollution and damaged natural and cultural resources. A commentary by Iwona Fluda, founder of Creative Switzerland.
Changes are not just blurry wishes – they are necessities. It is time for us to co-create a new normal. This approach applies to all parts of our lives, and most urgently to the travel industry – because it was the hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the World Tourism Organisation, all destinations globally have implemented travel restrictions. The number of international travellers is forecasted to decrease up to 78% this year. All destinations suffered and will continue suffering from the impact of this pandemic. The long-term economic, social, and cultural consequences are unforeseeable. For all of us, this is a wake-up call and a long-needed opportunity to re-imagine travelling. How can we do it? Two ideas to think of while searching for solutions are 1) from destination-focused to human-focused way of travelling and 2) from massive tourism to creative tourism.
A conscious way of travelling – when travellers are intrinsically interested in learning and understanding a destination: its history, culture, people, challenges and relate to it on the purely human level – can make all the difference. Conscious travellers take care of the destination like of their own house; they question their unconscious biases and stereotypes. They are open to learning without judgement and are also ready to support the local economy from the perspective of a responsible contributor. It happens when they understand and fully respect the needs, challenges and dreams of communities they visit.
Creative ways of travelling allow discovering people, places and traditions that are often difficult to find in the destination brochures. They are very connected to local communities, their craftsmanship, cultures, lifestyles – too often unseen and not considered as a crucial part of a destination. The concept of creative travelling enables travellers to immerse themselves into the world of creative encounters with local people and to learn often forgotten skills. They can boost their creativity, learn new creative skills, empower local communities, and build bridges and intercultural understanding between cultures.
Destinations need to be understood from the perspective of local communities. Destinations are not their Instagram accounts and marketing materials. Beautiful postcards we all can buy at a local airport are not a soul and heart of a destination. They are, too often, the make-ups given by agencies to showcase the beauty of a place. The real beauty can be found in unexpected encounters, cross routes that will guide you to places you did not plan to visit, and people that will make you stop and wonder. I wish you all of them at your next destination.
First published at FORBES DACH, August 2020. Digital version here.