By IC, Jun 21 2020 08:00AM
Our latest research has found that the definition of Eco-tourism is changing quicker than ever and it provides greater opportunities for all involved in the travel industry. Consumers interested in ecologically focused holidays used to look for the experience of a simpler type of holiday where there was little or no impact on the land, people, flora or fauna in which they were visiting. In some cases, specialist operators provided the opportunity for travellers to be ‘hands-on’ and volunteer with locally beneficial projects.
However, as eco-tourism becomes more mainstream, travellers seek a greater range of sustainable holiday options. We find that more travellers are now searching more eco-friendly getaways to find the right level of eco-friendliness for them, since some want a fully immersive, contributing experience and some just want to know that they are supporting those hoteliers, tour operators and airlines that go beyond simple carbon offsetting.
For many, it begins with waste. Since consumers are being lectured about their own production of waste at home such as food waste, single use plastics and other non-recyclables, many would like to see how companies involved in travel make clear and transparent commitments towards reduction of waste. Finding notices in hotels about saving water and re-using towels/bed linen just doesn’t reflect what consumers are looking for now and what will influence their buying decisions.
Seeing that excess food is donated to those in need, recycling food waste to local farms and generating less non-recyclables is just the start.
Consumers feel they shouldn’t have to hunt for travel companies’ eco-credentials, they should be made much more obvious. Choosing a hotel because it uses mainly/only locally sourced produce or because it serves its own honey from its own bee colony should be made easier. Consumers want to read stories from airlines or tour operators that provide business advice, practical guidance or financial support in sustainable local start-ups who are involved with or contribute towards the tourism industry.
Then you go from those main-stream eco-travel consumers to those that are more demanding; those that sustainability and zero-impact is no longer enough. ‘Enrichers’ are the new eco-tourists, they want to preserve, learn and appropriately enhance the area in which they are vacationing. For so many years, tourism has neglected the people, plants and animals that surround the holiday destination, so now we find both the wealthy and average income traveller looking for information to make better informed decisions on which travel company to use based on what they give back. We see travel consumers wanting to enrich their own lives by learning from locals and their culture – the most desirable souvenir is knowledge imparted by someone who life may be very different to their own. Volunteering and skills-based holidays are increasing in popularity as consumers want are reciprocal give and receive experience whilst away from home, things that perhaps might even benefit them in their everyday life or work.