Slow tourism is a lifestyle that presents itself as an alternative to mass tourism. Thus, the slow traveler takes time to immerse himself in cultural exchange with the locals. In addition, slow tourism is part of the wider sustainable tourism movement.
Slow tourism can be considered “an approach, an umbrella or a niche” within the sustainable tourist market
What are the main axes of slow tourism?
In her book “Slow travel and tourism”, Janet E. Dickinson describes 3 main axes of slow tourism:
- The first focus of slow tourism is the attempt to avoid fast means of transport. The slow traveler will try to move away from cars and flights.
- The second axis of slow tourism is the carbon emissions during our travel and impact on the environment. The lower, the better.
- The third and final point of slow tourism is the quality of the travelling experience.
The main attributes of slow tourism
The Slow Tourism Attributes can be described as illustrated below (Source Med Pearls Manual):
- Change in the concept of travel and the use of time during the trip.
- Alternative of mass tourism.
- Focus on local.
- Focus on cultural.
- Sustainable and natural environment concerns.
- Change in the quality of the experience.
- Feasibility and new business development.
The six dimensions of slow tourism
It can be stated that tourist experiences and products can only be called “Slow Tourism” if they satisfy the following six dimensions – both from the point of supply and demand. The six dimensions of Slow Tourism:
Defined as “the time dimension of the business and territorial organization” of the activity (long-term planning, dedicated time to improve the business and the relationship with customers, and time availability of services) from the point of view of the supply, and the “tight to regain laziness” of the customer, “freeing her/himself of the guilt’.
Defined as “time, idleness, laziness” as opposed to “time is money”. This philosophy leads to using slow vehicles, slow agendas and “slow assimilation of changing landscapes”.
Defined as the “sphere of relationships between individuals with different opinions, beliefs, knowledge and cultures” that create “fruitful opportunities of exchange between them”. Particularly the relationship between the guest and the local people, the tourism supply, and the guests themselves.
Defined as the “capability to create and offer an experience that is characterized, non-artificial and strongly connected with culture and local traditions”, as well as the opposite to “standardized/globalized products and services”.
Defined as the impact of the tourism activity on the local environment, economy, and society.
Defined as the “capability to generate memorable moments that make the guest leave as a different person, marked by a true involving and gratifying experience”.
What does slow tourism mean in practice?
1- Choosing the Right Means of Transport
Once again, in “slow tourism” there is the word “slow”. So, the goal is to slow down to take time to enjoy more. The slow traveler avoids flights, cars, and trains in favor of using a bike or simply walking. Walking is a healthy option of course, but it also gives you more opportunities to connect with local people.
Walking around a new city also allows you to discover hidden spots off the beaten track that touristic buses would usually take you to. Explore the destination on foot and you’ll see that you’ll have a totally different perspective.
2- Being Concerned by the Environment
Choosing tourism options involving low carbon-consumption is a key point for slow tourism. The slow traveller doesn’t only connect with the environment and nature, but he/she also cares about it. That means as we’ve seen before avoiding, if you can, the means of transport with high-carbon emission.
3- Choosing the Quality of the Travelling Experience Over Quantity
Once more here, the idea is to enjoy the destination and make the most of it. Making the most of your stay in a country is not about collecting a series of must-see buildings, running from one spot to another. Holidays are not about ticking all the boxes of a huge list of things you want to see or do
What are slow travellers looking for?
he slow traveler is looking above all for a quality experience. The slow traveler isn’t looking to collect a list of spots but rather ‘live’ the destination. He/she is in observation, aware of what’s going on around, the sounds, the smells, the sceneries, the people, and the overall feeling.
Slow travelers take their time to chill and enjoy the destination. They would sit in a local café and watch.
They would exchange as much as they can with locals to immerse themselves in the culture. They would ask them about their habits and customs and try to live like them – the so-called living like locals’ concept:
Living Like Locals
Slow tourism is also a way to connect with locals, exchange with them and learn from them. The ultimate level of the travelling experience being to live like locals during their stay.
Eat Like Locals
Trying local products and traditional meals. This is a way to expand one’s gastronomic knowledge and discover new local delicacies. As much they you can, they avoid the big touristy spots and head for smaller, more local restaurants. They watch where the locals go and go there, trying to eat like locals!
Shop Like Locals
Going to small markets or local merchants. Exchange with locals. Buying local products. Why not try to cook a typical local dish? Even an easy one could be fun. Visiting a local market can be an amazing experience if there is time to enjoy it. All the smells, the colors, the sounds and tastes of fresh fruits and veggies can be an amazing experience for the slow tourist if they just slow down and take their time.
Have Fun Like Locals
Where do locals go when they want to go out a bit? What do they do? Chat on noisy terraces? Dance all night long? Why not try to learn new steps of local dances and dance with them? It could be an interesting and fun anecdote for the slow tourist, couldn’t it? This is another opportunity to connect with locals and learn from them.