Consider the last time you stayed in an Airbnb. Think about what stood out to you the most about your experience. Was it your host’s personal touches in the space, like a list of recommendations for things to do, or the fact that you felt more at home than you would in a hotel?
Most answers that travelers come up to explain why they book Airbnb over a more traditional option are centered around the fact that staying in an Airbnb makes you feel like a local. You have the inside scoop on where to go and what to see, and you’re not surrounded by a million other tourists who are simply passing through.
Airbnb’s rapid growth and success is due not only to their innovative brand, but also because their marketing tactics have tapped into a lasting trend within the travel space — travelers want to be more than just tourists, and Airbnb allows them to live like a local, even if it’s just for a night.
It’s no secret that these types of authentic opportunities lend themselves to more memorable traveling — transformative has quickly become a buzzword within the industry. But it’s about more than just a less traditional, off-the-beaten-path experience. In their search for these serendipitous experiences, more and more travelers, especially millennials, also care deeply about purpose-driven travel.
For anyone who has experienced a tour led in partnership with a local nonprofit or organization, or have purchased their favorite souvenir from a local artist — I’m sure you understand how these experiences are not only more authentic, but also far more rewarding. Individuals who build their itineraries around sustainable tourism opportunities know that traveling in this fashion is far more memorable than your standard tourist jaunt. Travelers can positively impact the destination they’re visiting, and through this, solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.
And the concept is contagious. When you begin to think of the opportunities that lie within the travel space to positively impact our world, you can’t help but want to get up and explore. Take some time to examine the Global Goals and consider the potential the travel industry has to reach these targets:
Global Goal #8 – Decent work and economic growth. Today, the business volume of the tourism industry equals that of oil exports, food products and automobiles. It accounts for 10 percent of the global GDP, and 1/11 jobs worldwide.* Sustainable tourism can, and should, create higher levels of economic opportunity through diversification, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Global Goal #13 – Climate action. One of my favorite moments from a trip to Costa Rica was exploring a family-owned gold mine. The father and son led us around the river, which wound through the rainforest, and they explained the process of mining gold — an act that is harmful to the environment because it deteriorates the land as they sift through the soil. The father explained that it was his goal to support his family by leading tours, but he would be unable to do so without more travelers visiting their rural-based tourism project. Whether it’s as simple as an individual’s career shift toward a more sustainable future, or something large-scale like JetBlue’s video on flights to the Caribbean that educates travelers on how to protect the beauty and wildlife of the islands — the potential for impact is tremendous.
Global Goal #10 – Reduced inequalities. One of the first lessons we learn when we begin to travel is how similar we all are. There are countless stories of travelers who were touched by the kindness of strangers abroad, or anecdotes of individuals making a connection despite not sharing the same language. These stories are universal. The social, economic and political inclusion of everyone begins with empathy and understanding, and I can’t imagine a better seed to plant than through authentic human connection.
By 2030, the UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to reach 1.8 billion. Let’s make sure those numbers act as a catalyst for positive impact.