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‘Meaningful Tourism’ to Take Sustainable Travel to a New Level

All the more travelers are turning towards alternative, authentic and more conscious-focused tourism experiences to make up for the time lost during the last two years – when international travel almost stopped due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Taking into consideration new aspects of sustainable travel focusing on both destinations and their residents, travelers are now seeking for environmentally friendly and socially conscious experiences.

Tourism experts estimate that this new trend – observed globally – is going to take sustainable tourism to a whole new level and identify it with the term “meaningful tourism”.

What is meaningful tourism?

Meaningful tourism is further advancing the concepts of sustainable and responsible tourism, taking into account the new demands and behavior of domestic and international tourists in the second decade of the 21st century.

“The very success of international tourism, with five times the number of trips in 2019 compared to the year 1980, often made a mockery of the idea of hospitality and ran in many places a juggernaut over local nature, culture, authenticity, diversity and serendipity, negatively impacting satisfaction levels of all stakeholders involved,” Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute) and director of the Meaningful Tourism Center explains.

According to Arlt, meaningful tourism brings back the focus on quality, resulting in satisfaction for the visitors, the host community, staff, companies, governments and the environment.

The benefits for tourism stakeholders are multiple and concern all parties and aspects involved:

  • Guests/Visitors: Better quality by adapted products, higher satisfaction and spending, more care for the environment
  • Host communities: Material and immaterial benefits from visitors, higher selfesteem, valorization of local culture and nature, participation in tourism development
  • Staff – service providers: Better working conditions and payment, full-time year-round jobs, clear career paths especially for women, appreciation
  • Companies & organisations: clear strategy, KPIs offering meaningful information, better margin and higher earning per customer, low marketing cost, improved brand image
  • Governments: More full-time year-round jobs, increased tax income, content locals, spatial spread, friendly international relations
  • Environment: Less damage from visitors, valorization of flora and fauna, more budget for recovery, smaller ecological footprint per visitor, sustainable development.

Source: Meaningful Tourism Center

As Arlt vividly explains, “meaningful tourism does not build artificial mountains in Maldives, or artificial beaches in Mongolia, but understands the attractiveness of emptiness and clear Finnish night skies for an inhabitant of Tokyo, and of an Asian Metropolis buzzling with life for Icelanders”.

What is happening in Greece?

The discussion on meaningful tourism has just opened but there are many destinations around the world that have taken actions to include some of its core values in their tourism strategies for the post-pandemic era.

Although not widely discussed in Greece, meaningful tourism could evolve into a new trend in the country as its tourism leadership is gradually opening the dialogue on issues related to tourism management and sustainable development also using the terms happy residents and satisfied travelers.

Earlier in April, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias announced that the ministry was rolling out an ambitious sustainability tourism plan involving popular destinations such as Mykonos and Santorini in its efforts to tackle overtourism, preserve Greek destinations, provide development and employment opportunities.

“It is imperative for Greece to find balance between a sustainable development tourism model, job opportunities and the protection of destinations,” the minister said during the Delphi Economic Forum 2022.

Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, SETE President Yiannis Retsos, London Business School Professor Michael Jacobides.

In addition, during the same event, Greek Tourism Confederation SETE President Yiannis Retsos also referred to the need for Greece to manage destinations in order to decongest certain areas and support others.

“Happy residents bring happy tourists,” he said and added that everyone should get involved in the debate for destination management solutions, including local authorities and the country’s productive sectors.

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About the Author
Eleftheria has worked for several financial newspapers, magazines and websites during the past 19 years. Between 2004 and 2014 she worked as a radio producer, reporter and presenter for the Greek and English language program of “Athina 9.84 FM”. She also has hands-on experience in the MICE industry.

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