The future of travel lies in the hands of those who really care.
Ironically, 2019 was the year of slow tourism in Italy. Venice was reeling under the pressure of mass tourists and the country decided to reject travellers and adopt a more mindful approach towards travel -- like limits to numbers of cruise ships, daily quotas of visitors to certain attractions, or prohibiting filming or photographing monuments to make sure people can easily access the area. Alas, 2020 had something else in store. What has happened in Italy today is a glaring example of reckless travel, something that's destined to change henceforth.
Amit Sankhala, owner of a wilderness camp in Kanha National Park and a well-known safari expert says, “Overtourism is seen as an important factor behind the spread of the coronavirus in popular tourist destinations like Italy and Spain. The concept of eco-tourism is the need of the hour. We must work together to sustain a movement towards protection of nature. We must ensure certification of lodges that promote and practice sustainability and eco-responsibility.”
What is slow travel?
It is much like how most of us travelled in our childhood. The long winding train journeys, school mountain treks or road trips in dad's rickety Fiat. By definition, slow travel comes hand in hand with other slow movements such as Slow Cities, Slow Money, Slow Education, Slow Schools, Slow Books, Slow Living. The idea which underlies all of these movements is to slow down and reduce the speed of modern life and consumption. Slow tourism offers the possibility to use a variety of forms of transport, from horsecarts to houseboats. It means spending more time in one place, travelling more with locals, contributing to the milieu of the place and opting for eco-friendlier, slower methods of travel.
SLOMO travel encourages you to get involved in educational experiences that give you a fresh perspective on the world. Rather than stopping for a selfie at the Berlin wall, a walking tour with a warhero can let you see the city through completely different eyes. Says travel writer/blogger Anita Rao Kashi, “This, to me, is the ideal kind of travel. It means I am not on a timetable or agenda, where I can explore at my own pace and wander without being guided by a map or list. It is times like these that have almost always led to incredible experiences: like chancing upon a pair of opera students throwing their voices into the night against the backdrop of Dresden's spectacular Frauenkirche and I spent more than an hour there; or in Sligo, Ireland, when I spent a day wandering around the countryside and trying to guess which scene inspired which poem of WB Yeats.”
Future depends on it
Taking the slow lane, the not-so-obvious routes and unhurried means of transport will be the way the world will travel now, say experts. Intensive walking safaris over jeeps in Africa, farm and ranch stays over the jostle for museums in Europe and cycling trails over crowded beaches in Australia. Also, when travel restrictions are eventually relaxed there will be heightened precautions as countries try to prevent Covid-19 and other infectious diseases crossing their borders. This will make international travel more time consuming and more expensive, the consequence of which will be a boost to domestic tourism.
What the world needs the most right now is mindfulness and sustainability and this kind of travel ticks both categories. Travel can no longer be dissociated from the fallout it creates, be it carbon emissions or degradation and endangerment of wildernesses or the undermining of local cultures. Says Tom harding, co-founder of Nemo travel, a digital travel agency, “I think people will begin to appreciate their trips even more and, given the economic climate, will not be able to travel as much, meaning one big trip a year is more likely than lots of ‘mini-breaks’. As digital influencer Lakshmi Sharath beautifully sums it up, “This may be the era of selfies and snapchats but I like to just feel the wind in my hair and soak in the moment in silence. Let the romance of the destination linger in your head than it be lost like a one night stand.”