Emotional Intelligence, hopeful skill to inspire the tourism industry and travellers to evolve in a more sustainable way. How to reduce the impact of tourism so we can keep learning and growing through travel?
Historically, travel was a luxury, however, today the barriers to travel being lowers it became marginalized. The evolution of an economy more collaborative in some countries, the growth of disposable incomes, the rise of middle class in emerging markets, new rules regarding immigration and vacation, the falling costs of transportation, create new ways to travel increasing the number of movement of individuals.
In 2016, we were 7.6 milliards of human including 24% who travelled. The Worldwide Organisation of Tourism, exposed that the number of international tourists reached 1.2 billion in 2016 and predict an increase up to 1.8 billion in 2030. The stakeholders’ needs to be aware that this increase of international movements will be added to the one of populations migrating from one country to another in search for a better place to live.
“The global middle class is forecast to grow by a further 3 billion people between 2011 and 2031, the majority of whom will come from emerging markets, with China and India leading the way. While travel is already booming in China, it is estimated that only 4% of Chinese nationals have passports. Similar trends are apparent in other emerging markets. What is clear is that these new travellers, like millennials and baby boomers before them, are looking for experiences.” (1) New profiles of travellers evolve on the market added to the Millennial generation in search for unique experiences, security and authenticity, highlighting behaviours that can be un-adapted to their destinations. Some tourists consume the local resources like a product in a supermarket behaving like if they were in their home country without being aware or refusing to be aware of their own influences (even if sometimes they think having a good intention behind their actions.)
Even if in some countries tourism is a major pillar for the economical health and a necessity in other culture lifestyle, to an extent, some sociological, economical and environmental un-balances appears. They are due to over-tourism.
Tensions regarding unbalances in the tourism industry: A lack of emotional intelligence, social and cultural awareness (chosen or nonexistent) engage unadapted behaviours and negative impacts in the destinations.
In some areas, it is possible to identify imbalances through tangibles indicators : erosion, transfer of diseases, increase of the local prices, the local population moving away emptying villages or cities in the shoulder seasons, littering, traffic jams, protests, sexual tourism, etc. In some cases such as Venice in Italy, the capacity of environmental resilience in the area has been reached out bringing negative and irreversible impacts. Some context generating a poor quality of life experience for the hosting communities as much as the visitor, without mentioning the environment becoming chronically endangered.
When the scope is extended to an international level, other phenomenon appears and could have as main source a lack of emotional intelligence and cross-cultural awareness from the visitor and the host. The healthy boundaries of the area are reached when conflicts of interest and un-adapted behaviours start creating some changes in the most attractive areas in the world such as Thailand where sexual tourism and begging circles developped or Barcelona (Spain) where the local population started a rebellion against the tourists and AirBnB.
Even if today it is easier to access to instant information via the internet including pictures (videos included) and english as a universal language for the visitor to be prepared, the interactions and relationship between the host and the visitor can be challenging. Also, it can be difficult to identify the real information regarding the codes of conducts to adopt in a world where we are over-connected and everyone can create and share his own content. So, the question could be : how might we increase human 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 ?
A personal journey with a purpose to find sustainable solutions giving the best life experience to the local populations (Socio, Econo, environment balance) as much as its visitors.
As Strategist, Geographer, Tourism engineering consultant and International Human Experience specialist, I have been working on different projects around the world with a focus on sustainable tourism.
I believe in real life experiences, going out of the comfort zone, learning by trying at least once in a lifetime before having an opinion/ judgement. That way from 2012, my research and the projects I worked on gave me the purpose to find sustainable solutions to give the best life experience to the local populations (Sociologic, Economic, environmental balance) as much as its visitors. The world became my laboratoratory for social experiences, in search for inspiration.
While I was doing my Master’s degree in Geography, land planning, sociology with a focus on Leisure, tourism and local development, and influenced by the capitalist world, I used to believe the EXTERNAL resources (the power of politics, education, legislation, etc.) as being the most powerful factors to bring solutions to the problem.Based on this assumption, I worked with public authorities and a private engineering company, using communication, legislation, urban planning and land settlement strategies as tools to reduce the impacts and human collaboration as a more sustainable strategy to implement them.
I learnt to approach areas with a commercial marketing approach with : the stakeholders involved in the governance being the CEO (Government, CEO), setting the general rules, the local resources (ex: local infrastructures and small businesses) being the product and the visitor (including the local population)as customers. This first approach highlighted the power of politics but also the importance of the infrastructures, transport and communication in the visitor journey.
The power of communication, word of mouth and online communities in the visitor experience changes the dynamics in the tourism ecosystem.
Firstly, If we focus on the traveler journey, his experience starts before going into any destination; when the idea of traveling pop into his head. The potential customer looks for information, dreaming, expecting what he could do, where he could go, using internet, seeking for advice.
In a previous project, while working for the Chilterns Tourism Network (UK), I had the chance to prove that online communication and branding are powerful tools to influence and increase people's awareness. However, word of mouth, based on human storytelling develop a trust being the key to sustainably develop a destination.
Developing the destination awareness using communication, branding and prototyping new collaborative “products” are one of the strongest pillars in a destination marketing strategy to attract visitors.
However, the challenge is to create value and trust to generate interest, desire then the action to come and even stay live in the hosting destination.
The power of the internet doesn’t stop there, observing an exponential increase of the collaborative economy (ex: France), I tried to experience organising a last minute solo travel to Thailand using Facebook communities as main source of information. The effects of those communities is not to neglect. Helping each other and trusting other users can be more powerful than using professional channels.
As humans, we are emotional and social animals in need of belonging. Communities such as “We are backpackeuses” or “French in Melbourne” are even evolving into real companies and are trusted network as much as a visitor centre. It is why for example Bruno maltor or Little Gipsy started to work with the tourism bodies as natural influencers. Having the local population and the visitors as advocates, ambassadors, influencers of the destination is the graal for any area. It is the organic approval to the whole human experience process and the destination success. Internet and social media being easily accessible anytime, anywhere via different devices, it is the worldwide tool to go viral and spread a reputation.
Mobility is the base definition of travelling. To an international scale the transport industry has a key role over the movements.
Mobility is the basics into the customer experience as the nature of travelling is a movement from point A to point B (destination) using a transport (or not). To an international scale, the transport is an important part of the experience, using plane or a boat for example. The plane being a fast and easier way to move from one country to another is popular. For example they even opened a line London (UK) - Perth (Oz) without stopover.
In 2015, I had the opportunity to analyse the role of mobilities and the infrastructures set, in the visitor experience. that way, I worked for “Les baux de Provence” (France) district council to develop sustainable mobilities and slow tourism. Afterwards, working 6 months with “Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Parks Canada, I had the chance to analyse solutions adopted by “Banff - Lake Louise destination”. As they are both famous destinations, they suffer from overtourism, the resilience capacity has been passed. The flux of tourists is that important that It was possible to witness social, environmental and economic crisis periods. (accidents, littering, unhappy local people and tourists, fires, etc.). In those cases, on top of working on a communication strategy to develop people awareness, one of the solutions was to develop the infrastructures, playing with the factor TRANSPORT - MOBILITY. (buses system, signaletic, etc. ). Those strategies have been rewarding however they have their own limits.
“Transformational tourism” (Yvette REISINGER) : Self-reflection and experiments around the power from within. Travelling as a way to learn, grow and indirectly reduce the impacts of tourism.
EXTERNAL solutions showed their interest to reduce 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) transformed me, opening my mind to a new approach even more human centred; replacing the human life experience in its natural global ecosystem. I started questioning the world I am living in and the real interests behind those resources.
From 2015, I started to wonder if it was possible to reduce the impacts of tourism by changing my own behaviours 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 bybecoming “ (be) the change I wish to see in the world" (Mahatma Gandhi), I could empower myself inspiring others. My goal is to inspire others to challenge themselves, to find fulfillment 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 (Europe, Marrocco, Thailand, New-Caledonia), living with local families and working in the tourism industry in different countries (France, UK (4 years), Australia (1.5 years), Canada (6 months), New-Zealand (6 months)), giving myself constant challenges.
Being closer to the visitor and the hosts, I experiment and analyse the impacts of my own changing behaviours on myself and my surroundings as much on a professional than a personal levels. I also have a better understanding of the impacts of tourism and immigration on the local tribes (kanak, aborigines, Maasai communities). I discovered inspiring strategies to adapt and reduce the impact of tourism in those areas.
The value of this experiment is to connect with the environment and human stories from all over the world. Trying to understand how individuals or communities adapt toward the evolution of tourism, globalisation and my own changing behaviours has been revealing.
Emotional intelligence and leadership in the tourism industry. We are all humans in a journey toward reaching the top level of the Maslow pyramid.
As humans we are naturally egocentric and curious in constant search of feeding our need while processing a wide range of emotions. Some of us forget or don’t realise the influence we have on each other’s as much as on the environment. Our personality, our background, our emotional state, our assumptions, expectations, our behaviours, etc. generate behaviours spreading vibes moving as quickly as a wave from one human to another.
Working in different visitors centre and also in retail, I had the chance to work with leaders using emotional intelligence in their management strategy. Each of them tried their best to give the best environment for their employees, leading by example. That way the employee could naturally give the best experience to the final customer. The strategy is human centred and its effects has been rewarding.
This analyse inspired me to also experiments new approaches in that way. I can provide examples proving the power of emotional intelligence on the visitor experience as much as my own personal life experiences.
Focusing on the other person interest first, empathising using active listening, asking for clarifications without making assumptions and using compassion to try to understand others perspectives without judgement has been revealating. Understanding the intentions, the reason behind the customer desire to travel is important as it will influence his own behaviours and so on the experience he will get while travelling.The key was to find out the motivations behind the journey. Even when you don’t speak the same language, body language is universal and end up being the best memories.
The initial mindset, believing system, the background and previous experiences will influence the whole experience and will be a vector of the impacts on his way as much as in the destination. We cannot change anybody but we can influence each others being aware of that statement is a first step.
I experimented and adapted this approach to the different stages in the international human experience. All the stakeholders can bring its energy into the process for changes. However, 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 of vacation provided last about 3 to 4 weeks when we go back to work. Travelling is a way to open the mind, to evolve, exposing ourselves to new experiences. It feeds our need for freedom, adventures however it can be difficult to realise the influence of those travels until we go back home.
A post travel strategy is as important as the preparation and the experience itself. Professionals of tourism should follow up the customer experience even after their went back home. The challenge is then to support people to keep this boost generated by the vacation to benefit their daily lives avoiding the post travel depression or melancholy.
On that last discovery, I support local projects such as Jetsport or The Self Club in Melbourne who I believe have the indirect potential to have an influence in the tourism industry and help reduce the post travel depression. Working with a life coach and an educator who use emotional intelligence to form tomorrow leader (Samantha SACCHI), strengthen the concept I developed along my journey. From October 2019, we use play as a tool to develop people awareness, create authentic human interactions and sustainable connexions. We experiment to organise short events such as the “Playgrounds for adult” to form tomorrow's leaders while creating safe places for local people and visitors to explore alternative ways to connect.
Today I believe in the power of INNER HUMAN resources (Self-awareness), using emotional intelligence and human collaboration/cooperation as resources as powerful as EXTERNAL ones. A synergie between the two, using external strategies and collaborations between the government, businesses and the local populations could increase human awareness around the codes of conducts to adopt to an international tourism scale to reduce the impact of their own behaviour on themselves and their surroundings. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”- Dalai Lama
The global idea is to create an “ideal” area for local people to live and stay to naturally attract visitors. That way, the destination have the local population as consumers and also external inbounds. It is possible to identify those destinations through the “most livable cities in the world” ranking system. It is a sustainable approach to develop tourism. Think local population first to naturally attract the external visitors using the power of emotional intelligence, communication in the collaborative and experience economy.
New-zealand such as Finland, land of inspiration with the Tiaki Promise project.
Having the opportunity to live in New-Zealand and work 6 months for the Picton I-Site, I had the chance to observe the tourism interactions (mainly cruises and independent travellers) and how a country such as New-Zealand recognised the value of tourism as much as its impacts.
This experience has been one of the most inspiring for me. New-Zealand tourism industry has come together creating the campaign “Tiaki promise” with “Tiaki meaning care for New-Zealand “ in Maori. “The Tiaki promise is a commitment to care for New-Zealand while travelling.” (source : Tiaki website)
This country has been one of the most inspiring in terms of tourism and the strategy they are trying to develop.
As it is an island only accessible by plane or boat, the key is to see that their short video campaign displayed by the country’s national aircraft company Air New-Zealand on the international flights. That way, international travellers have to watch it and can’t deny not being aware of the code of conduct.
Tourism New-Zealand use strategically both external (legislation, infrastructures, etc.) and internal resources (emotional intelligence, storytelling) to spread the code of conduct to adopt to preserve their country. Conscious about the strength and challenges of an increasing international inbound, the local businesses and organisations also participate in developing the awareness around the Tiaki promise.
Hopeful solutions and perspectives : using emotional intelligence to influence the collaborations and relationships between all the stakeholders related to the local and international human experience.
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
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.