“The pandemic was the best thing to happen to travel”: Bruce Poon Tip talks opportunity on the other side of COVID

“The pandemic was the best thing to happen to travel”: Bruce Poon Tip talks opportunity on the other side of COVID

Controversy is often a key ingredient in any talk given by G Adventure’s founder and CEO Bruce Poon Tip.

His talk at Travel DAZE yesterday, however, centred around a sentiment we never thought we’d hear uttered at a travel industry event.

Poon Tip spent nearly 50 hours travelling from Canada to Australia to appear at Travel DAZE yesterday, joining a stellar lineup of bright minds including Dr Karl, Justin Drape, Dr Nick Coatsworth, Leanne Harwood and LOADS more.

The Canadian entrepreneur told the crowd of travel industry professionals gathered at Paddington’s Palace Chauvel Cinema about the opportunities we face on the other side of COVID.

“Just prior to the pandemic, I don’t think the travel industry was in a very great place. I don’t think we should actually be trying to get back to normal,” he said.

“We were selling amenities and capacity instead of experiences. The commoditization of experiences was really what was happening.

“Because a lot of companies are public companies with shareholders who want to infinitely grow – it’s just not sustainable.”

Before the pandemic, travellers were more concerned with a hotel’s thread count than its destination, Poon Tip lamented, adding that those seeking the comforts of home should probably, you know, stay home.

I think that’s just a dangerous place to be for us as an industry,” he said, “if we’re just constantly selling amenities, and the destination is no longer important. I think that that’s where we were pre COVID.

“And that’s completely the opposite of what travel should be.

“But now, we are able to rebuild and rethink how we do everything. There is now opportunity for travel to become the transformational industry it has always had the potential to be.”

These are the themes touched on in a new documentary produced by Poon Tip, The Last Tourist, which made its Aussie debut just after Travel DAZE.

“It took us five years to make, but it’s doing incredibly well. We’re actually number two on Apple TV right now, after Jackass, which, I wasn’t aware was a documentary,” Poon Tip explained. 

“It looks at some harsh realities of what travel was pre-COVID, but it’s also a message of hope and potential.”

The crux of Poon Tip’s talk, though, was the opportunities travel faces on the other side of COVID.

The best thing that ever happened to us in travel is the pandemic,” he said, eliciting an audible gasp from his audience. 

“The traveller is going to change, the traveller is going to be more purposeful and meaningful when they travel because there’s going to be an inherent risk to travel.

“There are now all of these things that scare travellers and they need help navigating. The travel professional has become the most important thing.

“It’s really easy to book with the OTA online until something goes wrong and you need an advocate to speak for you when you’re stranded in another country.”

The most poignant change to the travel landscape though, according to Poon Tip, is a new focus on the destination. Travellers now care about where they are going, because it has become more difficult to get there.

“It’s a privilege that you get to travel internationally, it’s not a right,” he said. 

“It’s not going to change dramatically, there’s always going to be the mainstream capitalists, there’s always going to be the compound resorts.

“But there is going to be a small group of people and that’s all it takes to change how we look at travel. It will have a significant impact on our industry as a whole.

“We have to be ready to understand that they want something different. And they don’t want to get back to where we were before.

“And we as an industry have to be ready to embrace that.”

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    Latest comments
    1. Great talk from Bruce and hit the nail on the head with his comments about how unsustainable the industry was becoming, with short sighted emphasis on corporate profits priotitised over impacts on destinations, cultures and eco-systems. Mass tourism destroying the very things it was selling. A correction in course is long overdue. All credit to Bruce Poon Tip & others for having the courage to tell that to those parts of the Industry that sit in denial.

bruce poon tip covid g adventures movie premiere The Last Traveller travel conference Travel DAZE

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