Transformative tourism responds to 21st-century traveller’s concerns with a new way of interacting with destinations, more open, more engaging, more meaningful
Social sensitivities influence how citizens relate to the environment, also when they travel. The 21st-century travellers take concerns for sustainability and cultural diversity in the suitcase when they go on a journey. Their will is to become temporary citizens of the regions they visit, not just tourists. Transformative tourism responds to these concerns with a new way of traveling and mingling with destinations. More open, more engaging, more meaningful.
Transformative tourism poses the tourist experience as a meeting point between the visitor and the visited so that their interaction results in a positive impact on the world. Visitors leave their comfort zone and adapt to local life as volunteers, learners, collaborators or participants of cultural activities or events. Integration into the community appears as an added value to the tourism experience, which thus becomes a vital experience.
In 2015, the secretary of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, already pointed to transformative tourism as one of the main trends of the future, coinciding with the World Environment Day in 2015. “Though small actions may seem inconsequential, just imagine the widespread impact of one responsible action multiplied one billion times”, he explained. Rifai saw in this kind of tourism a “global force protecting the future of our planet and all people”.
Authenticity, altruism or ecology are some of the values that appraise transformative tourism, which goes far beyond leisure as it connects with the great challenges of today’s society. This widens the circle of economic actors who have traditionally benefited from tourism. Cultural industries or social entities find in transformative tourism potential public and willing partners, who wish to travel to help, live new challenges and discover new ways of life.