What Is Slow Travel?

What Is Slow Travel?

Now more than ever, people globally are embracing the desire to travel again and to see the world that has been kept locked away since the start of the COVD-19 pandemic. In fact, travel demand is already starting to approach 2019 levels, with the European Travel Commission predicting tourist arrivals to Europe to be down only 20%. While full recovery is a year or two away, the bounceback is showing the tourism sector’s resilience. Slow tourism could very well be what helps tourism succeed.

With that reemergence comes the question about how one should travel. The idea of mass travel – of sharing a crowded cruise ship, of long lines at clubs in foreign locations – seems a bit counterintuitive when we’ve spent so much of the past few years social distancing. Likewise, the time we’ve spent at home with friends and family in closer circles has reminded us of the value of connection – and of time.

Though technology has made travel effortless, though social media serves up travel-focused content and dream vacations on a daily basis, and though the temptation to get away may be stronger given the delays we’ve had in traveling, slow travel and slow tourism are emerging as thoughtful responses.

But what is slow travel? How does slow tourism differ from tourism and travel tendencies we’ve seen in the past?

Today we’re going to dive into how slow travel emphasizes a local perspective.

How Is Slow Travel Practiced?

Slow travel means connecting to a destination through the local people, food, music, and culture. Practitioners may view it in contrast to the country-hopping, city break kinds of tourism that focus on seeing as much as possible in a predetermined amount of time.

Slow travel instead focuses on fewer destinations for more time. As Slow Movement describes it, slow travel is “the opportunity to become part of local life and to connect to a place and its people” and the “connection to culture.

Instead of relying on an itinerary filled with more places than could possibly be visited, a tourist will opt for spending more time in the same place. 

The essence of slow travel is interacting with an area’s educational and emotional environment in real-time while focusing on sustainability for the environment and the community. Instead of racing through airports and taking multiple flights, as an example, tourists might take trains, share cars, or hitchhike.

In many ways, slow travel emulates the slow food movement that originated in Italy back in the 1980s. The idea then was to preserve traditions by educating tourists and locals about local cuisine, farming, and traditional cooking. 

Slow travel applies more broadly and provides tourists access to other types of cultures (while still including food, agriculture, and cuisine).

Examples Of Destinations Embracing Slow Travel 

Slow Travel In Vancouver Island, Canada

That is one of the best slow travel destinations to choose. Just off the western part of mainland Canada, Vancouver Island boasts many natural places to explore, including lush rainforests, expansive beaches, and intruding tide pools. Other activities include kayaking with Orca whales at Telegraph Cave. One can also sample wines and visit wineries, taste cider, and partake in traditional fishing at a fishing village

Iceland Slow Travel Example

Iceland is one of the countries that has embraced slow travel. With diverse landscapes and plenty of space, tourists are encouraged to take their time as they navigate the country. 

For tourists looking to spend a month in a place, it’s possible to plan an itinerary that takes advantage of the country’s expanses. From spending a week in Keflavik exploring ice-berg-strewn lagoons and waterfalls and getting to know the locals to strolling the black sand beaches in the area, there is plenty to do without going far.

In the second week, one could travel east, a trip enhanced by admiring the picturesque valleys, trying one’s hand at photography, hiking, and visiting the peaceful fishing villages. Following that, there’s much to be done in the north with dramatic peninsulas and, should the visit happen during the summer, the midnight sun. 

Whale watching is also a wonderful activity. Then, during the fourth week, it’s worthwhile to head to the West and explore the wilds of Iceland before returning South and finishing in Reykjavik. 

Wanaka, New Zealand

Slowing down to take in everything New Zealand has to offer is a rewarding opportunity. For tourists who have the means to visit Wanaka on the South Island  of New Zealand, they’ll enjoy endless days of remarkable scenery. 

Spend some time relaxing and recharging before indulging in all the fun activities the town has to offer. It is an actual harbor for slowing down. Wanaka has a rich history of gold mining and pounamu hunting. 

There is also a rich culture of art here, and plenty of galleries and exhibitions to visit.

Enjoy the great outdoors during your stay, and be sure to visit the famous Wanaka tree that grew amidst Lake Wanaka.

Agencies Embracing Slow Travel

Byway

Byway is one of the agencies noted for embracing slow travel. Byway specializes in slow travel journeys throughout the UK and Europe. The agency emphasizes that they specialize in areas with local knowledge and can lead you to hidden local treasures using traditional means like the train, boat, or bike. 

Their guiding philosophy is “that traveling through the world is better than flying over it.” Byway is mindful about sustainability which explains their preferred means for transportation. 

The agency caters to transport, accommodation, and gives personal recommendations. So if you have been preparing to travel to the UK or Europe, be sure to check out their services. 

If you’re looking to promote slow travel in your own destination, take a page from Byway’s book and see how they think and talk about travel to see how you can attract a similar audience. 

Final Thoughts About Slow Travel

Slow travel is developing in recognition as travelers around the world look for a different way to interact with the places they’re visiting. As the travel and hospitality industry continues to evolve, so are the consumers and their needs, so considering how to appeal to these tourists is essential. 

About the author

Alex Jeffries is the founder of Passport Creative. An award-winning producer and writer, he is now dedicated to tourism communication and development. He is based in Paris, France.