Ecotourism is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the tourism industry. What was once the preserve of the minority of travelers has now become very much a mainstream idea. No one really knows how much this industry has grown in recent years, as data is almost impossible to interpret, but we can safely say that the growth of this area of travel is rapid and shows no signs of slowing down.
To understand its importance, we first need to understand exactly what ecotourism means and how it is different from some other types of travel.
Ecotourism is not just about the destination which people travel to. It’s easier to explain what it is about if we compare it to other forms of travel. For example, “nature based travel” is about the destination. The traveler on a nature based experience will visit a natural environment. Ecotourism takes this a step further. The visitor will still travel to a natural environment, but there is an added element with ecotourism. An eco-tourist will visit a natural place which aims to conserve the environment and improve the lives and circumstances of the people who live in the area.
There are many benefits of eco-tourism. Over the years so many natural environments have been destroyed and this has had a severe impact on the world. Many species of plants and animals have been pushed to extinction. It is important to see complete solutions to the problems which the world is facing. Offering an economic solution to local people to encourage the sustainability of the natural environment is hugely important.
Ecotourism clearly has a very large part to play in the future of the tourism industry. Tourists are constantly looking for new destinations around the world. Tourism is estimated to account for as much as 10% of the World’s GDP so if diverting some of that money into eco-tourism is encouraged, that should help the sustainability of some of the most endangered and environmentally important regions.
There are many studies which indicate that people are very willing to think about ecotourism when they are selecting places to visit. The industry needs to recognize that there is a great deal of demand for more ecofriendly destinations. It is estimated that in 2014 eco-tourism had a worth of $4.5 Trillion. This huge figure has to make everyone in the tourism industry sit up and take notice. Clearly there is huge potential which is just waiting to be serviced.
The demographic of the eco-traveler has changed significantly over the years. The profile of the eco- traveler was for many years seen as one of two extremes. It was either the rich traveler looking for the ultimate luxury safari experience, or the student backpacker traveling the world at the lowest price possible. Eco-tourism now encompasses a wide range of tourists looking for very different experiences. The tourism industry needs to look at where the potential demand is not being met so that it can promote this fast growing area of travel even more efficiently. The net result will be beneficial to the tourism industry, the tourist and the environment.