Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

3 Ways Slow Travel Benefits Both Travelers and Mekong Communities

More and more travelers are getting more out of their trip, by taking it slow. They’ve discovered the merits of long-stay travel, also known as slow travel: a type of tourism where visitors stay for an extended period (typically more than a week), and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Photo by Evan Krause on Unsplash

Recent reports are seeing slow travel on the upswing: Skift finds a 35% increase in people traveling for three weeks or longer, and AirBNB saw long-term bookings in Thailand non-urban areas doubling compared to the pre-pandemic high.

Compared to short-term visits, long-stay travel can be more beneficial for the local tourism industry in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) – not just for travelers, but for local communities as well.

Increased spending: With more time to explore and engage in local activities, longer-staying travelers tend to spend quite a bit more compared to short-term visitors. Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn estimates that foreign tourists to the Kingdom spend about THB 60,000 (about US$1,775) on average per visit, but that figure could surge to THB 77,000 (about US$2,280) given a longer length of stay.

For long-staying visitors, the longer duration gives them the opportunity to shop at local markets, eat at local restaurants, and participate in cultural experiences that may not be available for short-term visitors. This is good news for local businesses, who enjoy their patronage and its benefits to the local economy.

Community immersion: Long-stay travelers have more opportunities to integrate with the local community, which can lead to a deeper understanding of local culture and customs. A more relaxed schedule opens up one’s itinerary to exploring further off-the-beaten-path, like visiting Inle Lake in Myanmar and its bucolic lakeside communities; or the highlands of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains.

Long-term travel thus encourages the development of respectful and responsible tourism practices, and helps garner support for sustainable tourism development.

Reduced environmental impact: Because long-stay travelers hang around one place for a longer period, they are less likely to take multiple flights or engage in other activities that contribute to environmental degradation.

They’re more likely to adopt less wasteful habits, like choosing home-cooked meals rather than visiting a restaurant or ordering takeout. And with less of a rush, visitors can try more sustainable transportation methods like taking the train – a boon for countries like Viet Nam, whose expansive rail system reaches most parts of the countryside; or Lao PDR, which has only recently opened passenger services on the high-speed rail that crosses all the way into Yunnan, China PRC.

So when you’re planning your trip, feel free to stay for several weeks or more. By staying longer and immersing yourself in local culture, you’ll be creating a travel experience that also supports the local economy and contributes to your destination’s sustainable tourism development goals.

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