Inside the mind of the Sustainably-Minded Visitor

better tourism mindset regenerative tourism sustainable tourism

This is the fifth in a series of articles on The Super Six of Better Tourism paradigm. The Super Six of Better Tourism is an alternative paradigm to the value, volume, visitor satisfaction model that has dominated tourism up until now. 



The traditional volume-value-visitor satisfaction model sees the customer as king, with an overwhelming emphasis on satisfying and delighting visitors. 

The Super Six Paradigm suggests that the visitor is not the top of the pile in tourism and that the relationship isn’t even a hierarchy.  It suggests that the visitor is one of a number of players who come together to create better tourism outcomes.  From this perspective, visitors are in a circular relationship with communities, places and hosts and a shared relationship of care for the planet.

This idea has been around for a long time. What’s relatively new is that this is also what the visitor increasingly wants.  Let’s look over some research from the last couple of years. 

2019 Research: Visitors looking for action from the industry

Just over a year ago, I shared this slide during my keynote talk at The Tourism Space LIVE. It was based on a review of available research at the time. It showed clearly that visitors had big demands from industry – the first 5 below all relate to things they felt businesses should be looking after.  Only the 6th, the feeling of positive contribution, is what they wanted for themselves, and this would be indirectly achieved through dealing with destinations and businesses that had looked after the other five.



Research in 2019 was clearly telling us that more and more people were becoming sustainably minded. In fact, many were saying that ‘sustainability’ had become mainstream. However, travellers were also indicating that they were not always sure how they could become more sustainable as visitors. They began looking to businesses and hosts to make it possible for them to make more sustainable choices.  They were looking to industry for leadership and inspiration. Here are some interesting statistics from a 2019 survey, for example:


 Source: reveals key findings from its 2019 sustainable travel report

Lying behind these purchase intentions or aspirations were clearly identifiable ‘new’ values and beliefs, as this image shows:



2020: Values of ‘sustainability’ embed themselves

Research emerging over the course of the pandemic has shown a deepening of these desires and a very discernible shift in priority values for society.  Here are just two reports and I thank Anna Pollock of Conscious Travel for highlighting them to me.

Research on 'The Cultural Impact of Covid-19' from The Barrett Values Centre, for example, has identified 4 values that have moved into the Top 10 Workplace values list as a result of the pandemic, replacing long-standing corporate values such as achievement and efficiency, for example.

Source: COVID-19 Culture Assessment - Barrett Values Centre

Similar findings were echoed in an Accenture Report ‘How Covid 19 will permanently change consumer behaviour’ from April 2020.  The report found that consumers are adopting new habits and behaviours that many anticipate will continue in the long term. Specifically, the virus has accelerated three long-term trends:

Source: COVID-19: Fast-changing Consumer Behavior | Accenture


The Era of Empowerment in Tourism

Covid-19 has already changed the dynamics of the relationship between host and guest. Hosts have moved from reacting to visitor needs towards taking a greater leadership role in empowering people to experience the world in a safe and warm way. Trust and integrity are more important than ever. 

We can expect that visitors will continue to count on hosts to do right by them in the future, and also to empower them to do right by the local community and place.  There is now an expectation amongst visitors that this will be the case.

The ‘right’ to travel where you want went you want has been removed. Businesses can play a key role now in removing impediments and opening up possibilities for their guests.


New language for a new era

Our language is likely to change to reflect changing values and dynamics.

The idea of destinations ‘lifting restrictions’ will give way to the idea of destinations ‘extending invitations’. Destinations and businesses will move away from language like ‘promoting’ and ‘accommodating’ guests to ‘inviting’ and ‘hosting’ guests. We will move from an ambition to ‘satisfy’ to one of ‘empowering’ visitors.   


Inside the mind of the Sustainably-Minded Visitor?

When you get inside the mind of the growing number of sustainably-minded visitors, you see that they are looking to you to help them be more sustainable, to help them make a difference. They want local, health and well-being and they want to do the right thing.  They want you to empower them. Visitors are seeing it as your responsibility to make these things possible for them. They are expressing a desire for you to lead.

In terms of visitor experience, key questions to add to the mix might be:

  • How do you empower your visitor to make a difference?
  • How do you make it possible for your visitor to show they care?
  • How do you empower your visitor to feel well in themselves?
  • How can you make it possible for them to feel that, by travelling, they contribute to the wellbeing of other people and places?
  • How do you enable them to uncover the authentic local?



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