As a content marketer working within the travel industry, this space and the people in it are near and dear to my heart. Needless to say, 2020 was a difficult year for the travel industry. It was absolutely devastating to see the negative impacts of COVID-19 that caused an entire industry which employs 1 in 10 people globally, come to a complete standstill.
But there is always hope on the horizon, and one of the many silver linings of 2020 was seeing the resilience and strength of the travel community around the globe. Like the rest of the world, my team and I at GLP Films were unable to tell the stories of sustainability and travel as we usually do. So we had to pivot and innovate. We thought, how can we help right now? Storytelling was still something we could do even from the remote home offices of our team. It would just be a little different. Over the next several months we produced and launched 23 videos remotely in a series called #TourismStrong.
The series interviewed film partners from GLP’s 10+ years of storytelling and content marketing work in the travel industry. From adventure tour operators to eco-lodge owners, the series documented real people and their hope and resilience during the greatest challenge of our lifetimes. Here’s what we learned from our global travel community, and how it can help travelers and the travel industry recover by building back better.
1. Taking Care of People
For Baan Rai Kong Khing, a homestay in Chiang Mai, Thailand, health and wellness is the first priority. Before the pandemic, owners Somsak Inthachai and Supan Inthachai, shared their expertise with travelers through traditional Thai practices like fire massage and herbal treatments. Throughout the pandemic tourism stopped, but Baan Ria Kong Khing turned their expertise inward by providing fresh food and nutrition from their gardens, and sewing masks for their community. Taking care of people and community will be the foundation for building back stronger. “Health comes first, along with safety and mental well-being. And after this pandemic, everyone is welcome at Baan Rai Kong Khing,” says Somsak Inthachai.
2. Connecting to Nature
Ecolodge owners Maria José Andrade and Jorge Pérez of Tierra del Volcan lost most of their tourism traffic during the pandemic, but quickly pivoted to focus on the future of their business. And that meant developing new products and opportunities for families to travel together for transformational experiences that put connection to each other and the planet front and center. “We need to find a way to promote healthy ways to sustain each other as a species; to preserve our society. We need to look at this as a time for healing and looking at the purpose of one’s relationship with the earth.” As travelers, we can choose nature experiences that benefit our relationship with the planet and each other.
3. Supporting Sustainable Community-Based Tourism
One the most sustainable ways to travel is by slowing down and connecting with the place and the people through community-based tourism and homestays that provide a meaningful cultural exchange and directly support local economies. In the community of Baan Talae Nok in southern Thailand, you can participate in hands-on activities like authentic farm-to-table cooking, learning traditional crafts, conservation projects or just relaxing as part of the community. Their community-based tourism model was founded to support Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, providing supplemental income for families to send their kids to school. And while tourism has come to a stop for now, the community is sustainably living off local resources and the mangroves as they always have. When tourism restarts, Baan Talae Nok is poised to reopen with experiences that support people and the planet, bringing travelers closer to nature through safe and meaningful community-based tourism.
Sustainable travel is the path forward to recovery for the travel industry. When we build back tourism once it is safe to travel again, we can have the best impact by making travel choices that support local communities, protect the environment, and put animal welfare front and center. While 2020 has certainly been a challenging year, it has also given a unique opportunity to reset, and do things better. Join us as we continue to use storytelling as a force for good, to educate and inspire for a more sustainable world through the power of travel.