Emotional intelligence a hopeful skill to inspire the tourism industry and travellers to evolve in a more sustainable way.
How to reduce the impacts of tourism so we can keep the benefits of travel ?
Historically, travel was a luxury. However, today the barriers to travel are lower than ever before. The evolution of a collaborative economy in key countries, the growth of disposable income and the rise of the middle class has made overseas travel affordable. Also, in emerging markets, new rules regarding immigration and vacation and falling costs of transportation create new ways to travel. The number of individuals moving across the globe is on the rise.
In 2016, there were 7.6 milliard people on the globe, of which 24% travelled. The Worldwide Organisation of Tourism reported that the number of international tourists reached 1.2 billion in 2016 and predict an increase up to 1.8 billion in 2030.
In cultures such as United-Kingdom, Germany or France, international travelling is part of the lifestyle, becoming a necessity where the Millennial generation is in search of unique experiences and authenticity. Nowadays, new traveller profiles entered the market such as China, India, adding new interactions and movements of populations. Some tourists consume local resources like a product in a supermarket. Others approach services as they would in their home country without being aware or refusing to be aware of their own influence, sometimes consciously and with good intentions.
In countries where tourism is a major economic pillar, we can see social, economic and environmental imbalances appear. Over-tourism triggers tensions due to a lack of emotional intelligence, social and cultural awareness (chosen or due to lack of knowledge), engaging in unadapted behaviours and negative impact on the quality of life for locals in tourist destinations.
This is a paradox. Knowing that today it is easier to access instant information via the internet including pictures and videos, in English and most world languages, this seems to be a curious situation. The visitor should be even more prepared than ever and aware of the challenges of cross-cultural communication. The interactions and relationship between the host and the visitor have simultaneously grown more layered and intimate than the previous generations (ex. Airbnb, live like-a-local experiences). It can be difficult to identify accurate information on which codes of conducts to adopt in a world where we are over-connected and everyone can create and share their own content. So, how might we increase awareness to reduce the negative impacts of tourism in the destinations (environment, economy, social) while offering the best life experience and interactions for the local population as much as the tourist?
Trying to answer this question, I started a personal journey with the purpose to find sustainable solutions. The world became my laboratory for social experiences, in search of inspiration. I have been working on different projects with a focus on sustainable tourism. The process I have applied for gathering case studies is experiencing, prototyping and collaborating. I believe in real-life experiences, going out of your comfort zone, learning by trying at least once, reserving judgement.
When completing my Master’s degree in geography, land planning, sociology I used to believe the external resources (politics, education, legislation, etc.) were the factor that could provide solutions to the problem. Based on this assumption, I worked with public authorities and a private engineering company, using urban planning and land settlement strategies as tools to reduce the impact.
Three tools have been recognised as a major in the visitor journey and as solutions :
Governance via the stakeholder actively involved, including the government (Legislation, politics, financial resources, etc.)
Communication, using word of mouth, ambassadors and online communities in the visitor experience,
Mobility (including a transport or not) being part of the basic definition of travelling, to an international scale the transport industry has a key role over the movements that can be useful
Those external solutions showed their roles in reducing the impact of tourism. However, in 2013 my first experience abroad and in 2014 working in the tourism industry for the Chiltern Tourism Network (UK) opened my mind to a new approach even more human-centred. I started questioning the world I am living in and the sustainability behind the interests of those resources. From 2015, I wondered if it was possible to reduce the impact of tourism by changing my own behaviour as an individual; using emotional intelligence. Why? A personal experience triggered this new approach, noticing that everybody thinks about changing the world but few think about changing themselves first.
In January 2017 I started a project based on Experience Once in a lifetime. I made the hypothesis that by living by the motto “ Be the change I wish to see in the world" (Mahatma Gandhi), I could empower myself by inspiring others. My goal is to inspire others to challenge themselves, to find fulfilment in their world, live their life fully in a purpose to travel in a more sustainable and respectful way. I immersed myself in new cultures, travelling with and like other travellers in Europe, Marrocco Thailand and New-Caledonia and living with local families and working in the tourism industry in France, UK, Australia, Canada and New-Zealand.
Being closer to both the life of the visitor and the hosts, I experimented and analysed the impacts of my own changing behaviours on myself and my surroundings. I gained a better understanding of the impacts of tourism and immigration on the local Indigenous people (Kanak communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Maasai communities). The value of this experiment has been to connect with the environment and human stories from all over the world. Trying to understand how individuals or communities adapt to the evolution of tourism and globalisation has been revealing. I discovered inspiring strategies to adapt and reduce the impact of tourism in those areas but also that emotional intelligence and leadership in the tourism industry should be tested.
As humans, we are naturally egocentric, curious in constant search of feeding our need while processing a wide range of emotions. The initial mindset and the reason(s) of the departure influence the whole experience being a major vector of the impacts on his way as much as in the destination.
Ask yourself why you travel ? What is your intention behind your vacations and breaks? How can you prepare for your next holiday?
We cannot change anybody but we can influence each other. As professionals, we can have the most influence while the person is preparing her journey. That way we can seek for information around the intentions and the context of the departure, we can support her during the experience and help her to anticipate the way back home going back to a daily routine. Psychologists found that the emotional boost a vacation provides lasts about three to four weeks after we return to work. A post-travel strategy is as important as the preparation and the experience itself. Professionals of tourism should follow up with the customer experience even after their return to their home country. The challenge is to support people to keep the boost generated by the vacation to benefit their daily lives, avoiding post-travel melancholy.
Today, my beliefs have been transformed. The characteristics of our inner human (self-awareness), using emotional intelligence and human collaboration/cooperation are as powerful as external ones. A synergy between the two, using external strategies and collaboration between the government, businesses and the local populations could increase human awareness around the codes of conducts to adapt to international tourism of scale. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”- Dalai Lama
The overarching idea is to use an approach where communication (using emotional intelligence and storytelling), legislation, collaboration, lay the foundation. On these pillars rests the idea of enhancing a destination so that the area is enticing to both live and stay in. That way, the destination has both the local population and tourists as consumers of goods and services. The local population attracts external visitors for authentic experiences in the collaborative experience economy. It is possible to identify key those destinations through the “most livable cities in the world” ranking system. It is a sustainable approach to developing tourism.
It is important to recognise the governance and interactions in any system to identify wheat humans can have control over (their own personal behaviours and awareness) and what they can't, such as the environment (ex: weather). The process being exposed, each human can make a contribution to reducing the impact of tourism in their own sphere of influence. Ask yourself why do you travel ? What is your intention behind your vacations and breaks ? Are you aware that your own way to communicate (verbal or non verbal) and behaviours have an influence as much on your surroundings as yourself ? How can you prepare your next holidays ?
Each action counts. If each of us looks into ourselves first, expanding our awareness, we could change the world with a little push from external resources. Each human can have a contribution in reducing the impact of tourism at his own scale. It is important to recognise the governance and interactions in any system to identify where humans can have control over (their own personal behaviours and awareness) and what they can't, such as the environment (ex: weather).
By prototyping and trying some of the following projects, the research and knowledge could go forward :
I believe in EDUCATION using gamification, storytelling / immersive experiences
I believe in LEADERSHIP "Leading by example" using Emotional Intelligence
I believe in COMMUNICATION, LEGISLATION and COLLABORATION using design thinking, immersive and Human centred