The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in the way travellers are thinking and the Caribbean is well-positioned to take advantage of the new trends.
That is according to Canadian entrepreneur and founder of well-known travel company G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, who believes islands in the region provide many of the necessities that travellers want.
Delivering the keynote address at a webinar hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in commemoration of World Tourism Day, Poon Tip pointed out that travellers now preferred remote locations as opposed to big, busy cities.
Additionally, he explained that because of the challenges posed by the pandemic, travellers also wanted destinations where they could be more active.
Poon Tip said data and research conducted in Canada showed a dynamic shift over the past 18 months, with travellers now having a strong focus on mental health and their wellbeing.
“So this conversation about mental health and wellbeing has suddenly become so important because one thing people haven’t looked at closely are the mental health impacts of these lockdowns we have gone through over the last 18 months and how it has changed people’s thoughts about, not only coming out within their own communities but what they want to motivate them to travel again,” Poon Tip said.
“People want to be more disconnected, more remote and this is a very different change that we have found because before the pandemic travellers were motivated to travel to busy places and places with dense populations, but suddenly we are seeing that people want to be more disconnected, more remote and that is reflected in how we are in a more remote and wired world.”
He anticipated that the Caribbean was poised to take advantage of the emerging trend as a rural destination.
He said the region also had to push the concept of community tourism.
“The Caribbean has mastered rest and relaxation for sure, but the idea that people want to be active as well and be more active because they have been forced into this pause and these lockdowns, it is no wonder people want to be away from social media and they want to be more active on their next holiday and that is going to be more meaningful,” he said.
Vice-chancellor at the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles also pointed to the fact that travellers were more concerned than ever with their health and this was an area the Caribbean could use to its advantage.
“Since our product was built originally, ancestrally, historically, around the health product I believe we are beckoning there once again to go back into our treasure trove of history and extract ideas for the future,” Sir Hilary said.
“I will say to you that the biggest product in the world today will be built around health and not only physical health but mental health. Mental health has become the fastest growing concern in the world. People are speaking about the need for mental health and COVID-19 has brought this to the fore in a very aggressive way. Getting away from anxiety, getting away from stress, relaxing the body and public knowledge around health have soared.” (RB)