G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip has warned the travel industry will put its own future in jeopardy if it continues to promote that holidays offer the ‘comforts of home’.
Speaking at the Travel Weekly Sustainability Summit, Poon Tip said the Covid pandemic has “increased our addiction to convenience” and created a young generation of people who are used to being at home, while social media has “changed the way people consume” travel.
In an appeal to travel companies to promote purposeful travel to the destinations and communities they visit, he argued that focusing too heavily on the amenities, such as levels of accommodation and entertainment, had put the industry “in a dangerous place” before the Covid pandemic.
He said: “Everyone is trying to create that experience that makes you feel like you have never left home. It’s no longer travel.
“If we continue pushing people not to leave their comfort zone, why travel? When you strip any relevance of the destination for the sake of the comfort zone it’s a very dangerous place to be.”
He criticised the commoditisation of hotel accommodation for example to offer the same level of comfort that consumers enjoy at home.
“We are convincing people that they don’t need to leave comfort [behind] when they travel,” he said, adding.
“My argument is you should leave where you are comfortable. The comfort zone and comfort are two different things. When we make people feel like they’ve never left home, it’s a dangerous place to be for our industry.”
Poon Tip gave an example as the ‘McDonald’s effect’, where the fast-food chain offers a consistent product and service in different countries.
“This is where we’re getting to in travel, creating consistency so people don’t feel like they’ve ever left home,” he said.
He stressed it was an important issue because of the impact of the pandemic on the next generation.
He explained: “Covid taught us how much we could do at home. It’s a problem and an opportunity because we want to get people out of their comfort zone.
“We have a whole generation of Generation Z who realise everything they can do from their own home. If we promote that more we will slowly erode our own industry.”
Poon Tip, whose documentary The Last Tourist premiered in the UK in May, said consumers had become “customers of culture rather than contributors to it” and said the industry was catering to that demand.
“We have become addicted to that as an industry; you pay and you feel you have the right to a service. I think it’s the opposite of what travel should be. We should be in the position where you are willing to take risks to travel,” he added.
Poon Tip said he saw travel as a way to “transform lives” and help eliminate poverty by helping the communities it operators to. G Adventures runs a vary of ‘projects for good’ such as Oodles of Noodles in Vietnam; Bikes with Purpose in Belize; and Women with Wheels in India.
He added: “We define sustainability as community development and communities can benefit from tourism.”