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Rethinking Tourism: Over-tourism to Meaningful experiences

Over-tourism is currently an important topic in the travel industry.

A robust conversation around this was sparked by a fellow team member’s recent visit to Japan, where they’d encountered the effects of over-tourism: in two instances she was surrounded by tourists that it was difficult to see the sites and watching the tourists became the biggest part of the experience.

Environmental impact aside, no traveller dreams of claustrophobic tourist experiences. And yet, even the wide-open-spaces in African wildlife reserves are seeing the unintended consequences of aggressively marketing African bucket list experiences over the past three decades.

While Timeless Africa Safaris is fortunate to operate in an industry and on a continent that maintains a balance thanks to limited lodges and dedicated conservation efforts by organisations directly involved in this field, we consistently find ourselves strategising how we can contribute positively to this global conversation.

Off the Bucket List Travel

Overtourism isn’t just about overcrowding and its subsequent issues; it’s also about the attitude tourists bring with them. The driving force behind overtourism often stems from the desire to capture that iconic photo, to tick off bucket list experiences, and to boast about visiting the best-of-the-best spots. While this attitude needs changing, we can’t ignore its cause: marketing.

Seeking off-the-beaten-path Adventures

The unrelenting promotion of Africa’s ultimate safari experiences, including the Big 5 and the Great Migration, has created excellent demand. In many regions of Africa, the quantity of tourists is on the way to reaching a tipping point. Maybe it is time to shift the narrative – and our marketing.

Instead of only drawing attention to the usual, established locations and experiences, maybe it’s time for the travel industry to use its marketing know-how to shape the future.

Instead of a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ mentality, guests and the tourism industry can be inspired to shift their focus to the experience itself. Travel should be about immersion, engagement, and meaningful connections.

We can shift the narrative from ticking boxes to unticking them; embracing the joy of doing what no one else is doing and becoming a travel pioneer. Africa’s new tourism narrative can be about having a more exclusive, isolated, and impactful experience that you can treasure in your memory and share with your inner circle.

Timeless Sustainable Philosophy

As part of our sustainability philosophy at Timeless Africa, these are a few things we are focusing on at the moment:
We encourage our guests to help broaden Africa’s tourism footprint. We have shifted our focus when it comes to where we send our staff on recces so that we can confidently advise our guests to visit lesser-known areas that need the attention and support of tourist dollars – particularly during the off-season. If more of the safari industry does this, we could collectively rouse local governments to add their support, which could transform regional economies and increase the footprint of conserved land. Which is a dream world will positively affect the world’s climate.

We envision itineraries that combine popular spots with unusual, less frequented ones.

This is where we believe the future of tourism in Africa lies – tourists helping to increase the positive impact the African tourism industry has on the continent itself.

In closing, our stance on overtourism isn’t just an opinion; it’s a call to action and a suggestion for a new direction. We want to inspire travellers to seek out meaningful experiences that respect the environment and contribute positively to conservation efforts.

In this article
  • Introduction
  • Off the Bucket List Travel
  • Seeking off-the-beaten-path Adventures
  • Timeless Sustainable Philosophy

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