The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes, and in their place, sharing the thoughts of travelers who are shaping the future of the industry post-COVID 19. We tap into their vast bank of knowledge to discover what can be learned from the past as we plan a new way of traveling moving forward.
00:26 Plastic-free travel
01:34 Meet JoAnna
03:51 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
06:16 The new normal
09:45 The lessons we have learned from COVID-19
12:32 Co-operation and collaboration
16:01 Next episode
“…there's been a lot of conversation about the new normal and what travel will look like post-pandemic, and the idea of restarting tourism with a new mindset and in a better way. And I absolutely agree that we're at a pivotal point where we can make decisions now that can change the course of what tourism is going to look like in the future.” JoAnna
“For more than a decade, I have written for and collaborated with publications, development organizations, and international brands to amplify people, projects, and news in an increasingly noisy world. Publishers and clients count on me to deliver engaging and accessible stories that impact their audiences.
An international volunteer and election observer, passionate world traveler, and permanent expatriate and global citizen, I produce work that tackles complex issues and empowers local communities.”
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Kim: In this episode, the founder of a storytelling platform helping to shape the future of tourism as we plan a new way of traveling moving forward.
Kim: Hi it’s Kim and Phil with you and I know I said in the last episode we’d be exploring Plastic Free July the global movement helping millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution, but that’s just one thing we will touch on this episode as we look at sustainable travel both on a global and domestic level post-pandemic.
Phil: Plastic Free July asks this simple question, “Why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever?” The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals lists worldwide consumption and production among its universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.
And this is where storytellers like Joanna Haugen come into play-acting as a conduit to share stories that can affect change.
Kim: JoAnna is a solutions-oriented writer, editor, and public speaker. She is also the founder of Rooted, which I asked her to explain to us.
JoAnna: Yeah, sure. So Rooted is a platform, a storytelling platform, at the intersection of sustainable tourism, environmental conservation, and community-focused advocacy efforts. The mission of Rooted is to responsibly document, support, celebrate and share sustainable travel initiatives that put communities first, and to help others do the same. So at the end of the day, the goal is to uplift and amplify all of these local initiatives and projects that are based at the community level that uphold this idea of sustainable development. And through Rooted I'm providing and helping content creators and travel service providers learn how to tell better stories in a responsible way that uplifts these initiatives. Content creators are the face of tourism in a lot of ways for travelers who are coming to places.
And travel service providers, of course, these are your tour operators, your DMOs, they're the ones that have access to these amazing stories and communities. I'm getting ready to launch a couple of courses here in a couple of months on impactful storytelling strategies, also getting ready to ... I have been creating some case studies on these local initiatives so that other initiatives can learn best practices for implementing social impact projects that bump up against tourism. So Rooted it is this kind of this all-encompassing place that helps people learn how to tell better stories in a way that puts sustainable tourism development at the forefront.
Kim: Can you give us a couple of tangible examples of sustainability or sustainable travel?
JoAnna: I think a lot about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are intended to help build a world in a way that supports local communities and supports local people and the environment. And so when we talk about travel, some of the ways that we can see sustainability come through are by supporting local initiatives that are mindful of local people. There are some fantastic social enterprises and social impact projects that focus on taking care of the environment, like picking up plastic or doing some citizen science work, restoring coral reefs, helping to integrate solar grids into remote regions of the world.
So all of these kinds of locally focused projects that are built on the backbone of tourism actually support the local communities. So you do have individual choices and actions that you can take as a traveler, and then once you've landed in your destination, participating in, supporting, and being very mindful of local initiatives and people and businesses and supporting those. And sustainability is something that we can be thinking about in all of our actions, right? We can make the choice, whether we're going to walk somewhere or catch an Uber or take a subway, or if we're going to bring our own tote bag, or if we're going to take a short shower or not take a shower today because there's a water scarcity issues. So sustainability is almost a mindset that we can lay over our everyday lives while we're at home, or while we're traveling
Kim: It certainly works in isolation. I know that working from home, we've forgotten to clean our teeth some days, so there's some water [crosstalk 00:04:08]. Now the blueprint, the UN's SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, there are 17 of those and it is there to achieve a better and more sustainable future, as you said. Do you think that is more important now more than ever as we look at travel post-COVID or post-pandemic?
JoAnna: I absolutely think it is. And throughout this whole thing, there's been a lot of conversation about the new normal and what travel will look like post-pandemic, and the idea of restarting tourism with a new mindset and in a better way. And I absolutely agree that we're at a pivotal point where we can make decisions now that can change the course of what tourism is going to look like in the future. And I am seeing some things that point in that direction. For example, there are several cities, among them Paris, Milan, Seattle, Bogota, all created more pedestrian-friendly walkways. They closed off some streets to traffic during the pandemic to create more friendly pedestrian spaces or more spaces for bikes and cycling. And they're going to keep those roads that way. And that's building sustainability at the local level, which when we talk about these 17 pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable cities and communities is goal number 11.
Creating more pedestrian-friendly spaces for locals is a spillover that will benefit tourism. It offers more opportunities for travelers to experience a city in a slower manner, in a way that's more environmentally friendly, but it's born at the level of benefiting the locals. Amsterdam is taking a much closer look at how it wants to attract the kind of travelers that benefit its city versus turn it into a city that locals don't want to live in, again, focusing on the local level. So I think coming out of the pandemic, we are seeing opportunities for destinations that are really starting to think about their local people first, and that will have an impact, a ripple effect into tourism.
I also think that just simply coming out of COVID, we're going to see some trends that naturally feed into a better and slower way of traveling, which also has benefits for the environment. For example, people aren't likely to get onto a big bus tour anytime soon. People are indicating that they want smaller groups, that they're looking to escape the city into quieter, more remote areas. So there's an opportunity there to spread economic vitality around a larger area, to not have as many people in just a few places in a destination. This comes back to sustainable development in that it is slower. It is born from the local level. I am hopeful by some of the changes that I'm seeing. I hope we'll continue to take advantage of this window to rethink tourism's future.
Kim: We've been given a really rare glimpse of what a world without travelers looks like. Do you think that we've learned anything?
JoAnna: We've learned a few lessons that I think are surprising. I think that people are taking a second look at their own backyards as possible destinations. I'm seeing a move toward more domestic tourism focus. Destinations are starting to think about how they can cater to their own residents and people within their small destination bubbles in a different way. And so they're doing some rethinking on marketing for local audiences. So that is one thing I think we've learned is that so often we've been focused on international arrivals to the loss of our own residents and what they might have to offer local communities as a tourism audience. One other thing we've seen that's been quite clear is that destinations that have relied heavily on wildlife tourism, and by that, I mean, safaris and other wildlife experiences, viewing experiences, have really struggled, particularly in Africa and then in also several Asian countries. Because without any travelers, there was this realization that so much of the economy, the local economy, was tied up in tourism.
In several destinations, there's this concern that poaching is on the rise. A lot of local people are unemployed. There has been a conversation about how can we diversify the economy in a place that has been so reliant on wildlife tourism? And I know there are a lot of conversations going on right now about what can be done so that this kind of heavy reliance on wildlife doesn't happen again, and the animals can be protected beyond more than just safari income.
I'm seeing a big movement as well, just people saying, "Maybe I don't need to tick off all those things on the bucket list. What is really important to me? What does it mean to travel, and what do I want that experience to look like?" So I think people have had a chance as well, just as travelers, to really think about what travel means to them and what they want that experience to look like once they are able to travel again.
Kim: Well, domestic tourism was one of the talking points that you sent to me as a suggestion to touch on, but you also wanted to touch on collaboration and cooperation. So I'm keen for you to explain to me what you mean by that.
JoAnna: Yeah, so I found it really interesting during the lockdown ... This is unprecedented. We didn't know what this was going to look like. And immediately, a lot of places came in-house and kind of panicked and tried to figure out their next steps. But very quickly, I saw a lot of companies, in particular tour operators, that normally would be considered competitors, turning to each other for feedback and ideas. "How did you handle this? Who's coming up with this kind of communication?" Everything from, "Hey, has anybody found a way to support your local restaurants from a tourism level?" to, "We're getting ready to reopen our visitor center. How are you keeping people from touching stuff in the visitor center?" And so I've seen a lot of places that normally would be competitors turning together to find solutions to get through this difficult time.
Also, I think we've seen a lot of companies realize that they run on fairly bare-bones staffing and funding, and without tourism, ... Of course, they're in the tourism space, but without money coming in, there was not a lot of margins. We might see some tour operators come together, work together in a cooperative kind of way to consolidate their backend operations, keeping two different company fronts. But there's no reason why two companies, even if they're competitors, can't work together just to save money, to work with the bare bones funding and staffing they have. We saw a little bit of this in the outdoor industry, and I wish I could think of the two companies that did it now, but they came together during the pandemic and they shared staff, putting some in a warehouse and others on the front end, fulfilling orders, in order to keep staff at both companies employed.
And I think we're going to see some of that in the tourism industry. This was an unprecedented crisis, but we might see a second wave of this. We might see other crises. And I think that's just really illuminated the shortcomings that we have in this industry where without any tourism we're in dire straights. And even some of the smaller ones that have always done this amazing job supporting local communities through their work, through their impact work, suddenly they close those ranks. And that really was disheartening to me because tourism has long supported the local communities where it works. And in time of crisis, suddenly that support wasn't there. These communities have become reliant on it. That's been part of these tour operators' bottom line and part of their selling point is that they support local communities. That's a lot of people who rely on tourism in some way, and to fold that part of their arm, their business model, during times of crisis was very sad to see.
Kim: Thank you JoAnna and that chat sets us up nicely for our next episode when we speak to the founder of GLP films about their uplifting video series celebrating the resiliency of the travel industry through positive tourism stories amidst the pandemic and under the hashtag TourismStrong.
Phil: If you want to share your thoughts on shaping the future as we plan a new way of traveling moving forward, email [email protected]