Travellers are more open to sustainable tourism, survey shows

The respondents prefer to create a positive impact for locals and not to contribute to issues like over-tourism 


TRAVELLERS are more receptive to sustainable tourism, a recent Airbnb-commissioned survey revealed. 

According to the survey, sustainable tourism emerged as a top priority where 93% of Malaysians polled agreed sustainable tourism is important, while 84% of them said the pandemic had changed how they think about sustainable tourism. 

Analysed by Economist Impact, the study gathered 4,500 people across nine countries in the Asia Pacific including Malaysia, which explores the attitudes towards holistically sustainable travel that encompasses social, economic, cultural, community and environmental aspects. 

In Malaysia, the two most important aspects for sustainable travel highlighted by those who surveyed were creating equitable outcomes and income for locals, as well as engaging with new social experiences and meaningful connections. 

Economist Impact (policy and insights) senior manager Pratima Singh said following the pandemic, travellers are thinking more about the implications of their travel choices and decisions. 

Some 73% of Malaysians polled said it is important they create a positive impact for locals, with over 60% believing that it is critical for them to not contribute to issues such as over-tourism. 

This was further supported when 70% of respondents believe they are becoming 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. 

Airbnb’s head of public policy for South-East Asia Mich Goh said travellers are also looking to immerse themselves in these communities and forge meaningful connections, while also minimising any unintended negative impacts. 

“They are also thinking deeply about how they can put their tourist dollars to best use and economically empower towns and rural communities that have struggled,” Goh added. 

Evidently, 68% contended that they are conscious that communities are in need of economic recovery and will factor this into where they travel and how they spend their money. 

Almost two-thirds of all respondents value travel as a means of meaningfully connecting with communities and culture, with over 50% Malaysian respondents wanting to immerse themselves in local communities.

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

When highlighting the openness to travel in new areas, about half of the total respondents would rather travel frequently to rural destinations that are not currently popular with tourists.

“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 with a greater hope to impact the local communities,” she said. 

Looking ahead, two-thirds of Malaysian respondents 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. 

While the conscious traveller is not just reimaging their travel lifestyle, they also look into embracing more flexibility. 

“When it comes to flexibility, over 50% of Malaysian respondents plan to take workcations or work remotely when they can,” the survey said. 

Moving forward, Airbnb is committed to partnering with governments and 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,” Goh concluded.