UNWTO launches new campaign to drive visits to lesser-known places

According to the survey, 79% of the Malaysians respondents prefer travelling to familiar, rather than new, destinations. – SADIE TEPER/Unsplash

Recognising that travelling presents the opportunity to not only unwind but also gain new knowledge and experiences, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has introduced its new universal pledge: Tourism Opens Minds.

With the aim of bridging cultures and forging human connections, the global initiative was launched at the World Tourism Day (WTD) 2023 conference held recently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“The Tourism Opens Minds initiative extends a compelling invitation for travellers to broaden their horizons and explore the uncharted corners of our world,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UNWTO, in a statement.

Travellers are encouraged to wander down paths seldom taken, instead of having their friends’ or families’ previous travel itinerary influence their own, allowing them the chance to discover the beauty of diverse destinations. At the same time, it nurtures “an appreciation for the cultures and people who call these places home”, Pololikashvili said in the statement.

How open are the world’s denizens to diversifying their travel habits and travelling outside of the usual tourist spots? Commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Authority, YouGov conducted a survey from Sept 14 to 21 on a globally representative sample of 17,000 respondents to find out.

According to the survey, 79% of Malaysians voted to go to places they were already familiar with. However, a larger number – 96% – favour new destinations as these expose them to new experiences that bring a deeper understanding of other cultures.

Similarly in Australia, a smaller percentage – 58% – lean towards familiar spots, but 91% find that new places are preferable as they help broaden cultural understanding.

In South Korea, 85% of local travellers favour familiar places, while 82% lean towards destinations they have yet to explore. – YU KATO/UnsplashIn South Korea, 85% of local travellers favour familiar places, while 82% lean towards destinations they have yet to explore. – YU KATO/Unsplash

However, in Japan and South Korea, the margin between the two sides in each country is minimal. In Japan, 67% of local travellers think that familiar destinations are favourable, while 66% appreciate the mind-opening aspects of new travels.

As for South Korea, 85% of local travellers prefer familiar places while 82% appreciate the cultural insights and awareness that new destinations present.

It was also reported by YouGov that more than 50% of respondents in the Asia Pacific region have travelled to destinations that have yet to be explored by their friends and family, while more than 70% of these travellers returned home with a broadened perspective following their visit to new places.

Through Tourism Opens Minds, UNWTO hopes to see more travellers opting for new destinations when planning holidays, in an effort to mitigate the impact of overtourism in certain locations. (Data show that overtourism happens because two-thirds of consumers globally prioritise travelling to places that people close to them have visited.) This will in turn create a positive economic and social impact on local communities.

Delegates who attended the UNWTO WTD 2023 were invited to agree to the pledge to turn lesser-known places into more welcoming and accessible destinations, help to cater to, and foster, an environment that encourages trips to lesser-known travel spots, and be more open-minded to new places and cultures.

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