How To Cater For Travel Trends: Slow Travel

Monday, November 7, 2022


We’ve spoken before about sustainability as one of the top travel trends for 2022, but there has been a noticeable shift in customer behaviors over the last few years, gravitating towards the eco-conscious, authentic experiences of slow travel. So it’s not only vital for the well-being of the environment to make your services greener, but also your revenue too!

Many customers are now looking to enjoy each moment away, engaging with local cultures and environments for ‘high quality, authentic and sustainable experiences’, Cat Jones suggests – founder of slow travel start-up Byway. Who have, incidentally, seen a 600% uptake in travellers booking their holidays since April 2021.

As travel agents you are in the unique position of being able to kick start sustainable choices around where you send your customers, and what businesses you partner with in the local areas, and the opportunities you provide your customers.

What Is Slow Travel?

Slow travel mainly refers to the idea of heightened connection with the destination of a travellers’ choice. It encompasses the idea of learning about cultures, engaging with local businesses, products and creating more immersive experiences in a travellers’ destination.

Slow travel also falls into the bracket of sustainable travel because travellers are more mindful of their social and economic impact on local communities and ecosystems. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) considers sustainable travel as: "Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities"

Slow travel is sustainable for these communities compared to the trips where tourists dash and grab their experiences on ‘checklist’ holidays. It has also been described as ‘travel that leaves a thumbprint on the soul for the traveler.’

What Are The Needs Of Slow Travellers?

Customers looking for ‘slow travel’ experiences want greener options to reduce their carbon footprint and the negative impact on the destination they’re visiting. This includes transport, accommodation, which local businesses they’re supporting, tour facilities, and the type of experience or activity they book.

Some key factors that make a trip ‘slow’ include:

  • Minimising travel distance and the number of countries/areas visited
  • Maximising the time available for the trip – not always corresponding with longer trips, but maximising the duration no matter its length
  • Contact with local people/culture and heritage
  • Eating local food and supporting local businesses & producers
  • Learning new skills
  • Minimising technology and mechanisation (& thus carbon footprint)
  • Experiencing authenticity and finding meaning

Why Catering For Slow Travel Benefits Travel Agents

Take Up More Space In The Industry

Offering a wider range of experiences for your customers means you take up more space in the industry and nail that word-of-mouth marketing.

Puts You ‘Top Of Mind’

37% of travellers don’t know how to make their travel plans sustainable, despite 81% suggesting that sustainable travel is important to them. Make yourself the ‘go-to’ agents for sustainable travel in your market by advertising clearly how you can satisfy customers’ needs.

Slow Travellers Spend More

The Expedia Group Traveler Index report found that, in 2022 over 59% of travellers were ‘willing to pay more fees to make a trip more sustainable’, while a quarter of respondents to the 2022 Sustainable Travel Report said they would pay more for activities that gave back to local communities.

Offering options that appeal to those seeking slow travel experiences not only aligns your portfolio with the direction that travel is heading in, but also boosts the likelihood of building revenue with bespoke, higher-cost experiences.

How To Make Your Business Appeal To Slow Traveler

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

You should practice what you’re selling, after all!

  • Sign pledges to make dramatic changes to your carbon footprint
  • Invest in conservation projects or ‘give-back’ schemes in the destinations you sell to – such as tree-planting, re-wilding, conservation areas and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Partner with 'green' hotels by searching for them in our Booking Engine
  • Offer carbon neutral experiences – cycling, hiking and sailing tours boost your sustainable portfolio. Long-distance train journeys instead of flights between countries also bring down your carbon footprint.

Promote Destinations Known For Their Sustainability

With 71% of travellers wanting to make more effort to travel sustainably, this is an opportunity that’s wide-open for travel agents. As travel agents, you have the power to influence sustainable travel right from the get-go with where you send your customers.

And the first step in catering for slow travellers is understanding which destinations are best for these mindful, sustainable travel experiences.

We recently highlighted some of the best sustainable travel destinations which is a great place to start if you’re looking to build up a list of popular (but not overcrowded) locations to send your customers.

Expand Your Portfolio To Include Bespoke Experiences

One of the main differences between ‘slow travel’ and purely sustainable travel, is the notion that slow travel encompasses immersive experiences which bring the traveler closer to the local culture and/or landscape of the destination they’re traveling to.

Some examples of what slow travellers are seeking include:

  • Transformative trips – taken with the intention of returning with something ‘reclaimed’, or ‘transformed’; such as retreats, digital detoxes, restorative trips after periods of stress.
  • Give Back trips – where travellers engage in activities that give back to the environment or local communities
  • Immersive trips – such as staying with local families, engaging deeply with the local culture and community, or immersion into the landscape of the destination itself with remote locations
  • Unique ‘once-in-a-lifetime' experiences
  • Long-term travel or travel experiences – such as multi-country rail journeys, long-distance hikes, or remote holidays in one place for a significant period

Plus, you could work with a specialist distribution partner that facilitates these connections with sustainable tour operators and tourism companies for you…

Working with a distribution company – such as Bedsonline, as a Hotelbeds brand – which has sustainability at the center of its ethos means that you as a travel agency will have access to a far greater portfolio of ancillary products, and therefore experiences, that you can offer to your customers.

Why not register your agency to boost your business with this global portfolio?

Prioritise Local Businesses and Communities

Tourism leakage refers to when the money spent by tourists is not kept within the local communities and businesses in their destination. This is something that slow travel actively tries to avoid, and being aware of how to avoid this can make your business much more appealing to slow travellers.

In turn, this ensures that your services as a travel advisor work towards enhancing your customers experience of the destination – offering deeper, more authentic connections with the local culture, which is at the heart of slow travel.

  • Recommend local restaurants, accommodation & businesses - to keep profits gained from tourists within local communities
  • Create itineraries that showcase less-visited areas – align with the values of slow travel and highlight ‘off-the-beaten-path’ experiences to keep tourist money with locals and stimulate these economies: 64% of travellers would avoid popular tourist hotspots to miss out on overcrowding!
  • (Handy hint: The Booking Engine allows you to create complex itineraries easily, to save time and provide even better service to your customers)
  • Educate your customers on the local culture they’re visiting – encourage them to purchase and support local goods and businesses
  • Avoid or reduce last-minute bookings – encouraging your customers to book their accommodation and ancillary activities or tours before they arrive in their destinations, or at least further in advance, is more sustainable for local businesses, as they can better plan staff and resources.

While there are many considerations you can incorporate into your practice, these are great starting points to make your travel agency more appealing to slow travellers!

Slow travel is just one segment of the sustainable travel movement, but it’s nevertheless a multifaceted and growing segment which presents a key opportunity to boost your success as a travel advisor.

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