Travellers are missing the point of why they see the world

G Adventures Founder, Bruce Poon Tip, said the broader travel industry has lost its way with its focus on guest comfort over true immersion, writes MATT LENNON.

Travellers are being blinded with amenities and losing focus on truly seeing destinations as the primary reason for travel claims G Adventures founder, Bruce Poon Tip.

At the same time, the overall business model for tourism was broken, with local communities not benefiting from the revenue generated by visitors.

Speaking this morning on stage at the ‘A Force For Good’ event in Sydney, Poon Tip said the industry has become lost amid distractions relating to amenities and the endless quest for growth and the “promise of infinite profits”.

“We’re travelling to the 40 poorest countries in the world and the most in-need citizens on the planet, and we’re buying luxury holidays,” Poon Tip said.

“But the business model that doesn’t work is the local people aren’t benefiting from people being in their country.

Poon Tip referred to ubiquitous social media posts featuring food as the perfect example of how travellers have lost the plot.

“This could be anywhere, it’s no longer relevant where the destination is, where you’re going,” Poon Tip said.

“And you know, that’s dangerous for us in the travel industry.”

The G Adventures Founder and champion of community tourism said that this quest for consistent and strong shareholder returns leads to aggressive discounting and turns into aggressive buying, which means putting pressure on small communities who rely on tourism as their livelihood.

Poon Tip referred to a study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which found that of every $100 spent on tourism in a country, only $10 stays in the local economy.

“That’s not a sustainable model,” Poon Tip said.

“We’re missing an opportunity to be a transformational industry.

“Imagine that we’re in an industry where we’re taking people to the poorest countries in the world, and by changing our business model slightly and making sure local people benefit, we can transform lives.”

Poon Tip said tourism has mixed up the difference between ‘comfort’ and ‘comfort zone’, with some hotels abandoning the relevance of destination in favour of amenities to make people comfortable, such as by offering consistent experiences regardless of where in the world they are.

“You want [your customers] to be comfortable, you want to offer comfort, but when you offer it to a point where it’s not taking people out of their comfort zone, you’re robbing them of experience, you’re robbing them of the ability to learn an experience from the destination.”

“And when you strip away the relevance in a destination…you’re robbing that customer of the richness that travel offers…and having that greater sense of self and a greater appreciation of where you come from.”

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