Eco-tourism is one of the fastest growing travel industry segments. Thirty years ago it was in its infancy, but now has blossomed into a dynamic way for people to connect with the nature, environment, and people around them. It’s already changing the way we travel by providing motivation to tread lightly, to respect other cultures, and to respect the diversity of our entire ecosystem. Eco-tourism will continue changing the way we travel in the future.
More Culturally Sustainable Travel
Eco-tourism is leading the push for more culturally sustainable travel. More and more travelers want to be in touch with local people when they travel. The era of group tours to a foreign country, where tourists are shuttled from tourist place to tourist place, is fast becoming outdated. Eco-tourism is about interacting with the local environment and that includes the local people. Culturally sustainable travel means visiting local places of interest. It means finding out how local people live. It might also include volunteering alongside local people. It means sharing meals and developing friendships.
People like making a conscious decision on how their travel dollars are spent. Tourism accounts for 10% of global GDP and, in many countries, it is one of the top industries. Local spending provides opportunities for the locals.
More Local, Environmentally-Friendly Foods
Local food is one of the most important changes that eco-tourism is causing in the world of travel. Travelers are embracing local foods. They seek out the new and the different. TV shows exist to show people the foods eaten in different countries around the world. The food that the locals eat typically seems more connected to the local environment than the food found at the local McDonald’s. Tourist restaurants recognize the changes, and they are filling the market niche.
Alongside local foods, people are concerned what is going into their bodies. They want environmentally-conscious foods, and if they are locally grown, even better. This change can be seen in the hotels and airlines. When offering foods, they are attempting to source locally and are touting the quality of the ingredients.
More Nature-Based Activities
Eco-tourism is bringing about more tourism that embraces the local environment rather than exploiting it. People want to participate in activities that make them a part of the environment. This might mean hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, white water rafting, mountain climbing, rappelling, or going down a zip line. Eco-tourism growth has pushed many resorts to offer these activities.
Alongside the nature experience, many eco-tourists want to leave the environment in a better condition than it was before. Some complete projects like beach cleanings while others just look for reassurances that their participation will lead to a better local environment. Some resorts have begun programs that inform guests on how they are helping the environment and local economy through their stays. Eco-tourism is pushing this trend to happen more and more often.
Smaller Travel Carbon Footprint
The global aviation industry accounts for 2% of all global carbon emissions. Airlines understand that global warming is affecting our environment and are working to reduce their carbon emissions. American Airlines, for examples, is working to make all of their planes more energy efficient.
The smaller carbon footprint is also found in eco-friendly hotels. While big hotels are normally not thought of as eco-tourism destinations, these establishments understand that today’s environmentally conscious travelers want and are embracing initiatives to use less energy and use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. They find that reducing energy use is not only good for the environment but also good for the bottom line. A hotel attempting to go greener can take the first step by going paperless and using a hotel engine to handle bookings and reservations. This can reduce the amount of paper used and discarded in the reservation process. Other hotels may find that offering power-saving accommodation options to guests can go a long way towards reducing energy usage.
Increases in travel technology means that eco-friendly travel is easier than ever. They can help people reduce their own travel carbon footprint. Travel technology means that people can book hotels and airlines that help them spend travel dollars in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
Companies are embracing eco-tourism principles as it becomes an ever larger piece of the travel industry. Tourism related businesses are using a smaller carbon footprint, becoming more culturally sustainable, embracing local foods, and providing more nature-based activities. Expect that this trend will continue.