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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

New form of ‘conscious travel’ emerges as Thais prioritise sustainable tourism and more inclusive tourism recovery

Thai travellers are embracing the travel revolution with a laser focus on how they can ensure their trips are more positive and empowering experiences for the communities they visit, new research shows.

The rise of the ‘conscious traveller’ is increasingly presenting as an opportunity for communities to not only grow their local economies off the back of the travel rebound, but also welcome an evolving form of empowering, win-win tourism that emphasises genuine connection.

New Airbnb-commissioned research and analysis by Economist Impact*, which surveyed more than 4,500 people across nine countries in the Asia-Pacific including Thailand, found more than 90 percent of Thais polled say that sustainable tourism is important to them, with almost two-thirds saying they will factor sustainable tourism practices into their holiday plans and are willing to pay a premium for sustainable tourism experiences.

The study examined attitudes towards holistically sustainable travel that encompasses social, economic, cultural, community and environmental aspects. In Thailand, creating equitable outcomes and income for locals, as well as engaging with new social experiences and meaningful connections, emerged as two of the most important aspects of sustainable travel for those surveyed.

Based on the research,

  • 72 percent of Thais polled say it is important to contribute to the local economy when they travel. They define this as creating a positive impact for locals, by immersing themselves in the local community, and being conscious about how they spend their money and whether it benefits the local community.
  • Almost 70 percent are conscious that communities are in need of economic recovery, and will factor this into where they travel and how they spend their money.
  • 72 percent say they will be more conscious when it comes to familiarising themselves with what’s important to the communities they’re visiting and how they can make a contribution.
  • 68 percent place importance on using travel as a way to meaningfully connect with communities and culture.
  • Over two thirds say it is important that they are not contributing to issues such as overtourism.

The research also highlights how the travel revolution is presenting new opportunities for rural areas as travellers become more open to exploring new ways of travelling and living.

  • More than 70 percent of Thais polled plan to travel more frequently to rural destinations that are not currently popular with tourists.
  • 60 percent plan to take workcations or work remotely from new destinations when they can.
  • Moving forward, almost two thirds are planning to engage in more domestic travel than in the past, with the aim of allocating more of their travel budget within their own country.

“Following the pandemic, travellers are thinking more about the implications of their travel choices and decisions”, said Pratima Singh, Senior Manager for Policy and Insights at Economist Impact. “As demonstrated by our survey findings, we’re seeing a trend where people are attempting to make their travel decisions more sustainable—economically, culturally and environmentally—and hoping to have a more positive impact by benefiting local communities.”

Mich Goh, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, said: “Just as the travel revolution is inspiring people to embrace flexibility and reimagine the ways they live and travel, so too is it spurring on the rise of the conscious traveller.

“In the wake of the disconnection and economic hardship brought by the pandemic, people are becoming increasingly thoughtful and deliberate about how they can use travel to make a positive contribution to the communities they’re visiting. They’re thinking deeply about how they can put their tourist dollars to best use and economically empower towns and rural communities that have struggled. And they’re looking to immerse themselves in these communities and forge meaningful connections, while also minimising any unintended negative impacts.

“Airbnb is committed to partnering with the Thai government and local communities to find ways to harness the travel revolution to deliver tangible and lasting benefits for everyone. It’s critically important that both industry and government come together to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

NOTE: *“Rebuilding tourism in Asia-Pacific: A more conscious traveller?” is a report commissioned by Airbnb and produced by Economist Impact. The findings shared in this press release are based on a survey of 4,582 travellers from nine markets: Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The survey was conducted and completed in October 2021.

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