Can you believe that before the pandemic, the tourism sector was the third-largest employer in the world? The chance to cross that dream destination off your bucket list has become easier than ever. From the romantic streets of Paris to the mystical temples of Chiang Mai, you’re never more than a plane flight away from having the perfect getaway.
The rise in global travel has benefited millions of people, but it has also raised concerns about the environment. Many locals of destination “hotspots” also feel as though mass tourism has drastically changed the fabric of their cities – and not always for the better. So, is there a way to make the current tourism model more equitable and sustainable?
This is where Planet Happiness comes in. Merging tourism and big data, they aim to “define, value and measure travel and tourism’s contribution to individual and destination well-being.” By using its Bhutan-inspired Happiness Index Survey, Planet Happiness gathers crucial information about the lives of locals who live in World Heritage Sites and other tourist destinations. At present, Planet Happiness offers the only framework that measures tourism’s contribution to community well-being.
Planet Happiness: Building Bridges
Paul Rogers, co-founder and director of Planet Happiness, believes that tourism can make the world more sustainable by bridging governments, industry leaders and local communities.
“If we can harness this industry that employs more people than any other sector to introduce the wellbeing narrative to all levels and layers of government and businesses, it can be a truly transformational sector.”
In most conventional tourism models, success is mainly defined by tourism numbers and profit for businesses. Factors like quality of life, environmental degradation, and cultural change remain largely unconsidered. This creates divisions between those who benefit from tourism dollars and locals who may feel powerless to change the system.
This is why gathering data through the Happiness Index Survey is so important – stakeholders, businesses, and governments benefit from data insights to better understand host communities and set out evidence-based actions and policy interventions. While it may take time to implement the desired changes,
Planet Happiness brings residents and industry experts together to create a harmonious relationship. They can work together to develop mutually beneficial projects in the tourism industry.
Why Planet Happiness Can Revolutionize Tourism
Planet Happiness also guides stakeholders as they begin to answer the question: how do we make a more sustainable tourism industry? As Paul states, “current approaches may increase visitation, but undermine the quality of life and encourage the out-migration of residents.”
Host communities are a vital part of the travel experience. Think about your last trip abroad. Do you think you would’ve had the same memorable time if the locals were disenfranchised…or not there at all? When the quality of life is low and people are unsatisfied with their living situation, many of them will choose to leave their homes in pursuit of a better future. Local exodus rips away the charm that travelers come to experience in the first place.
To address this, Planet Happiness motivates and enables tourism stakeholders to create more regenerative and sustainable tourism models centered around local communities. Thus offering an alternative to overcrowding and profit-driven mass tourism that often dominate approaches to destination development.
Can Every Country Follow The Bhutanese Tourism Model?
Since 2011, the UN has called on member states to incorporate their population’s happiness and well-being into development decision-making. Several countries have followed Bhutan’s lead and are considering quality of life issues when developing their tourism models.
While the Happiness Index Survey is based on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness development model, Paul believes that every country needs to find their own path based on their own unique assets and market conditions.
“Bhutan is an enigmatic and magical place that many tourists would like to go to, but it’s a small landlocked Himalayan country with less than 800,000 people. If they had an open-door tourism policy, they would be overwhelmed with tourists. This is why their high-value, low-impact method helps them adapt to tourism over time. A country’s policies need to be developed according to the system that’s in place at the moment and where they envisage themselves going in the future.”
Leaders in the industry can be inspired by Bhutan and its development model. Every country, however, has its own tourist hotspots, nature reserves, and community concerns that can affect its next steps to making the local tourism industry more sustainable.
Tourism Has the Power to Change the World
Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries with the potential to transform societies for the better – if developed ethically. As consumers become more aware of reducing their carbon footprint, there has been an increase in demand for travel experiences other than mass tourism.
Planet Happiness offers a framework to improve the lives of millions by giving people and communities a stronger voice in development decision-making. They now have a platform to voice their concerns so that industry stakeholders can better understand and take them into account when creating businesses, products, events, excursions and experiences for tourists in their own communities.
Change also starts with you. Using your dollar to choose a more sustainable form of travel can have a massive impact on how the tourism industry develops in the future. Or, as Paul likes to say, “we’ve got a planet to save and a transformational industry that can help save it.”
ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.
Want to learn more?
Sustainable Travel Guide to Paris – ecomadic
Planet Happiness – Planet Happiness
Happiness Index Survey – Happiness Index Survey
HISTORY OF GNH – GNH Centre Bhutan
Ecotourism & Culture: An Unhealthy Mix? – ecomadic
Be a More Sustainable Traveler – Travel Guides – The New York Times