From the natural wonders of the Galapagos to the picturesque beauty of Indonesia, the appeal of island destinations all over the world is undeniable.
Yet for some of the world’s travellers, the beauty and wonder of Indonesia eludes them. For as long as tourism has been a thing, many have chosen the more well-known paths of the main continents; eager to experience what has been marketed to them as the ‘best’ destinations in the world.
But the days of everyone flocking to the same destinations may soon be coming to an end. With reports of overcrowding becoming a serious problem in Europe, and travellers now, more than ever, seeking more authentic and culturally rich experiences, how does the travel industry ensure that island destinations are seen as equally desirable as their mainland cousins?
Overcoming the ‘there isn’t much to do’ mentality
Everyone knows that if you want to relax and recharge, then there’s nowhere better than an island destination.
But for many, travelling is about more than simply relaxing…it’s about exploring new and exciting places, and learning and discovering things about different cultures. Travellers, then, have often been wary of island destinations as they think (often or always incorrectly) that unless you love lazing on a beach, there isn’t much to do.
Yet this idea (and many associated with island tourism) is more of a marketing problem than anything else.
Due to a lack of internet access for what could very well be their best experiences and accommodations, island destinations often struggle to showcase everything they have to offer. And where they are able to showcase some offerings, travellers often find themselves having to jump between tens – if not hundreds – of government, tourism and provider websites to figure out what’s available. Add to the mix the fact that many island destinations have incredibly rich – yet at the same time, different – cultures means that the average traveller could feel intimidated when researching where to go and what to do.
So the stigma remains; and the diversity of experiences that island destinations have to offer remain largely undiscovered by all but a fortunate few.
Authentic, yet not discoverable?
There’s no doubt that the Colosseum is impressive. And if you haven’t seen it before, you’ll marvel at the Eiffel Tower. Yet for the more discerning travellers amongst us (of which there are many), or for millennials in general, these experiences are falling short of expectations.
And that’s even before you consider the fact that some locals in the more popular areas feel that their culture is being degraded due to the over-commercialisation required to cater for the masses.
What popular destinations may not necessarily deliver, though, island destinations most certainly can.
Take the Cook Islands, for example, a tiny set of islands in the South Pacific. Keen to avoid the traps that commercialisation can bring, they’ve taken steps to preserve the authenticity of island accommodation, so much so that the Sheraton’s attempts to build a hotel there have been blocked for nearly 3 decades.
Part of the reason that locals haven’t been keen to bring large, international hotels to their tiny island is to preserve the strong sense of community that exists there and indeed, that they’re known for. A sense of community, and the authentic culture and hospitality it brings, is a large part of the appeal of island nations, and one that locals desperately want to maintain.
Yet for those seeking an authentic experience in the Cook Islands (or anywhere else), the problem is that the experience you’re seeking is largely undiscoverable. Often, the delicious street food you find, or the hidden ‘local’ beach you accidentally discover becomes lost to anonymity forever as the person, place or experience has no name, let alone an internet presence – making the search for authenticity on island destinations somewhat tricky.
The game changer that is travel tech
Travellers want authenticity. And they want a diverse range of island experiences. Yet, they don’t know these exist and largely, they can’t find them as access to the internet is limited, especially for small local providers – exactly the type of providers that tourists want to find.
While these are exactly the issues that may have previously made island travel slightly intimidating, that era may now be over with the launch of an exciting new travel platform, TRAVLR.
TRAVLR solves one of island destinations – and indeed, tourism’s – greatest problems in that it enables the authentic to become discoverable, all through allowing users to share memories of their trip highlights, and then enabling others to replicate them.
Empowering travellers to do this means that the true diversity of experiences that island destinations offer can be showcased – no longer will they be relegated to places for a sleepy beach holiday.
On top of this, marketing budgets will no longer determine popularity for accommodation and hotel providers. If street food really is the best the island can offer, then street providers will reap the (very much deserved) rewards.
Bigger tourist destinations stand to benefit from this too. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is amazing, but if you’d prefer to tour the back streets of Paris looking for the best berets? Well, TRAVLR might just make this possible.
Island tourism = no longer intimidating
TRAVLR’s offering is to set to revolutionise the travel experience for island destinations, and at exactly the right time, it seems. No doubt in response to the search for more authentic experiences, island travel has already seen a considerable increase in the last few years - in the first half of 2017, for example, Bali’s foreign tourism industry saw a 23.5% increase in the number of tourists visiting the island.
It was also much the same story for other countries for whom islands are their main source of tourism, with destinations such as Indonesia, Malta, Thailand, Croatia and Greece all ranking amongst the top 50 nations according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index for 2017.
Given these statistics, and the game-changer than TRAVLR has been touted to be, it seems like travellers far and wide will soon be able to offer all the gems that island tourism has to offer.