Filmmaker and adventurer Levison Wood says more people want to feel their travels will give them a 'spiritual, emotional connection'.
“They want to feel good about what their journey has achieved; it is about giving back,” he told delegates at WTM London.
Wood has visited 120 countries over the past two decades and told delegates about his many adventures, from meeting the Dalai Lama in India to tracking elephants in Botswana.
He talked about going off the beaten track in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, and how he is now highlighting the need to protect wildlife in destinations that he visits.
His work has featured on C4, Animal Planet, Discovery, CNBC and National Geographic and he is known for epic walks – along the Nile, the Himalayas and in South America.
“When I go on these extended walks, I find that when you put yourself in the same vulnerabilities as the communities you meet, you’ll see less as a tourist and more as a fellow human being,” he said.
“Humans are all explorers; it is deep in our DNA. Everyone here has an explorer’s mindset.”
He told the audience how he wants to “shine the spotlight on places that may need more attention”, where tourism can be an important bridge between communities.
Wood also recalled how he set up an adventure operator in 2010 called Secret Compass, which opened up tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan and now offers trips to other off-the-beaten-track destinations.
“I entered travel with no experience or background,” the former soldier said.
“It was a sense of optimism that there is a desire to look beyond the headlines and go to places that people would shy away from.
“We sold out immediately: people wanted a sense of adventure.
“Experiential and meaningful – that is the future of travel.”
He added: “The travel industry plays such a huge part in bridging communities.
“We are all ambassadors; we have a duty to show what the world can be like.”
WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. The show facilitates business connections for the global (leisure) travel community. Senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating travel industry contracts.