The trend of “Slow Travel” has become increasingly popular over the past years, however through COVID19 it accelerated immensely and has almost become a new norm without people even realising. The crazed race to visit as many places as possible, which was influenced through renowned books like “1000 Places to See Before You Die” or through movies such as “The Bucket List”, is slowly becoming less popular. Slow tourism is forecasted to continue to grow in popularity, becoming an alternative to more traditional holidays with an estimated 10% compound annual growth rate.
What is Slow Travel?
The online definition describes it as an approach to travel that emphasizes connection to local people, cultures, food and music. It relies on the idea that a trip is meant to educate and have an emotional impact, while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.
Where did Slow Tourism come from?
This trend or better yet movement has been evolving through time and is connected to the Slow food movement. Slow Food was started by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, with the initial aim to defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life. The further popularity can be correlated with the growing focus on sustainability and self-care.
How can you travel “slower”?
Travelling slower involves transitioning from materialistic and consumerist luxury to wanting purposeful experiences and creating meaningful moments. People no longer want to have a schedule full of tours of classic sightseeing spots. They want to travel at their own pace while experiencing and tasting the local culture. A word used a lot when discussing Slow travel is “experience-based”. Experience-based travel can be accomplished in different ways, such as connecting with people, creating a community, experiencing local culture and making conscious decisions. These conscious decisions impact one’s own cultivation and regeneration as well as helping the environment by reducing your own global footprint.
“Slow tourism is characterized by reducing mobility and by taking time to explore local history and culture, while supporting the environment. The traveller’s main goals are relaxation, self-reflection, escape, novelty seeking, engagement and discovery.” – Journal of Travel Research
Prior to the pandemic global tourism hit record highs with 671 Million global international arrivals. Both the influence of the pandemic and these high numbers has motivated travellers to explore new destinations and lesser – known countries such as Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Georgia, Nepal and others.
How can hotels adapt to this movement?
There are simple approaches which both urban and rural hotels can adapt to enhance their guests experience through different hotel departments.
Food & Beverage: An already commonly practiced way is through F&B outlets, where the local culture can be easily incorporated by serving regional dishes with local and seasonal produce. A significant trend that many businesses have already adapted to is “going back to the roots”. The more we learn about food, nutrition and the planet, the more it’s understood that natural is best. Taking food back to its roots pays homage to local herbs, vegetables and as well as cooking practices. Teaching these cooking practices to guests also offers a way for guests to delve deeper into the local culture.
Wellness & Wellbeing: As everyday life continues to become more technology-driven, there is a strong desire for down-to-earth therapy and spa practices that use traditional foods, plant-based medicines, oils and ancient rituals.
Experiences & Activities: Transformational travel inspires travellers to disconnect from their busy day to day life, this includes learning new skills which will be a motivating force for future travellers. Experiences can allow guests to engage with the local community and interact with others to expand their cultural knowledge and understanding.
Off – Grid: Along with the movement of Slow travelling came the trend of Off – Grid travel, which is made possible by modern technologies. An example being solar power providing electricity anywhere, such as in mountain cabins, a boat or other remote locations. Both urban and rural hotels can adapt to travellers trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily life, by offering digital detox experiences, which are becoming increasingly more popular.
Transportation: With sustainability being a priority for slow travellers, hotels should offer or organise different means of transportation to their guests. Bike rentals, walking tours or excursions by train are all attractive options for today’s traveller.
To conclude, slow tourism is most likely the way our industry will cautiously but surely start to recover as soon as global travel is fully encouraged again.