Feedback in the field of tourism is already quite present. Think about the last time you went on a trip, didn’t you get at least three emails from any travel agencies, hotels or airlines to give feedback on your experience? And that’s how it should be. Most of the time, travelers even give their feedback spontaneously on platforms like Tripadvisor, even more if they are not happy with the provided services… So there are no issues on that matter. However, there is another aspect in the tourism industry that is often forgotten about: the local community at travel destinations.
Asking input of locals
The feedback of locals at a touristic destination should not be seen as optional, but as equally as important as travelers’ feedback. Why? Because these are the people whose home town tourists are ‘invading’. To make sure it does not feel like an actual invasion for locals, travel agencies should ask for their input on how to reconcile tourism with keeping an area livable.
Mass tourism and the negative consequences
There are lots of examples where, today, mass tourism has a negative impact on the area and local population. Venice in Italy – for instance – is constantly flooded by tourists, which makes the city barely livable during peak season for the actual population. On top of that, the environment suffers because of all the large cruise ships entering the lagoon. The local population and government have been addressing their concerns for a while now, but most tour operators and other players in the travel industry refused to act on them. Because the problems are now so far-reaching the mayor of Venice feels obligated to start implementing extra taxes and other measures for tourists. Travel operators are not happy with this and it is not excluded some lawsuits against the City of Venice will follow. Yet, this is not the way to go, according to me.
Sustainable tourism in any meaning of the word should be the goal today. Traveling without (or as little as possible) harming the environment, bothering the local population in a negative way or contributing to global issues such as child labor or animal abuse should be the norm. To achieve this, input of local communities is very much needed. Locals, as a matter of fact, are the real travel experts for their destination and can offer so many valuable insights.
Advantages for the travel industry
Asking for feedback of locals, should not be seen as a burden. On the contrary, asking feedback could offer tour operators more insight in which places in the area are worth a visit (or not). By being in contact with someone who lives and works in the area, you get insider tips you wouldn’t have access to if you remain stuck in your own ‘travelers’ world’ consisting of hotel owners, cabin crews and so on. The local population has valuable information, which makes them an incredible resource when planning trips for customers.
Asking for feedback
The ‘how’ in asking locals for feedback does not need to be hard at all. Every now and then work trips are organized for travel professionals to get to know a certain destination. In the schedule on such trips, there is time for the professionals to tour local hotels to get to know the types of rooms they offer, discover the area in general through a guided tour, find out about top restaurants in the neighborhood… But there is rarely room to meet local residents.
Yet, it would be interesting to incorporate feedback conversations/discussions with locals in such work trips. Where do locals think too much tourists are gathering at once? What other spots could offer a great alternative for a popular, crowded spot? Asking feedback this way is mutually benefical: residents will feel like they are listened to and can express their concerns of mass tourism while travel professionals will be able to offer their clients a better experience. After all, not a lot of tourists enjoy being at an overcrowded destination and most are looking for some authenticity as well.
Acting on feedback
As said, listening to locals’ input is extremely important, but acting on it even more. When travel professionals return to their offices, it is necessary to keep the conversations with locals in mind and to incorporate this when offering travel packages to clients. Most of the time, travel agencies work with reliable partners at travel destinations and it can be interesting to keep the conversation with locals alive through these partners. Some things might change over time (there could be new activities, new hotels, new problems that come to the surface…) and it is important to stay up-to-date about that. Trusted relationships with local partners are essential to achieve this.
Of course, if locals are completely against tourism in the area, you can’t fully put that into practice since the travel industry needs to remain viable as well. But still, these conversations can be a great asset. An option is to simply let locals tip off some possible daytrips from that area so that tourists can be spread out more. There is always something to talk about and ways to find a consensus through feedback.
To conlude there are only advantages for both parties involved when locals at a touristic destination are asked about their opinion. Yes, travel professionals do have to make time for it. But the travel industry is evolving a lot anyhow, especially since the start of the pandemic. So why not just consider this as one more change? Sustainability has never been more important than today and it is important that the ‘people-aspect’ is not forgotten in the road to more sustainable travel. So, yes it does take a little bit of effort to listen, but it’s more than worth it.
Nikita was the Events (Summit) Intern at Feedback Labs from January until April 2022. She is Belgian, but she came to D.C. for this internship and worked hard and smart to help make Feedback the norm.
After graduating magna cum laude in Journalism from Erasmus University College Brussels, she decided to pursue another Bachelor’s degree in Tourism and Leisure Management with a focus on organizing events. Next to that, her first novel got published in September 2021 and she also keeps a blog on her website nikitagoossens.be. In her blog posts, she often focuses on women’s rights, since it is a topic she is very passionate about.