Ecotourism is the fastest growing segment within the worldwide tourism industry. Ecotourism has seen massive growth since the early 1990s, growing 20%-34% per year, and in 2004 was growing triple the rate of the global tourism industry [1]. Over the next six years, it is projected that sustainable tourism could grow to represent 25% of the global travel market, a value of close to half a billion U.S. dollars per year [1]. The fast growth of this segment suggests that now is the time to enter this market and gain share as a hotel, resort, or as a country. Ecotourism falls under a larger category of tourism labeled as “experimental” tourism, which is projected to grow over the next twenty years while mass tourism (sun and sand) is expected to remain flat and mature.

 

Although not confirmed, some claim that there are upwards of 5 million dedicated, self- identified eco-tourists worldwide. If we include all tourists who travel with an eye on sustainability, this number is much higher. Trip Advisor’s 2012 Eco-friendly Travel Survey found that almost 71% of respondents planned to make eco-friendly travel choices the following year. More than half of the respondents claimed that they were willing to spend more money to stay in eco-friendly accommodations. Furthermore, about one-third of respondents claimed that they were likely to choose a travel destination based on eco-friendliness [2].

 

Ninety percent of British tourists consider active protection of the environment and the support of local communities as part of the responsibility of hotels and resorts [1].  In Europe alone, 20%-30% of travelers are “aware” of sustainable tourism, while 10%-20% look for “green” travel options and 5%-10% actually demand a “green” vacation [1]. Twenty-five million German tourists report that environmentally friendly accommodations are important to them [1]. Close to 50% of British tourists surveyed by TIES claimed that they were more likely to go with a company that exhibited ethical tourism (good local working conditions, environmental protection, and local charity support), and some claimed that they would pay up to $150 more to stay in an eco- friendly hotel [1]. An even more promising statistic shows that 95% of Swiss tourists considered respect towards the destination’s local culture of high importance when choosing where to vacation [1].

 

While the global tourism industry flattens and matures, experimental tourism is on the rise and close to a major breakout.  There is a lot of room in this industry for innovation and disruption.  Pack your bags in search of your next opportunity!

 

References:

[1] The International Ecotourism Society. Fact Sheet: Global Ecotourism. Rep. Washington D.C.: TIES, 2006. Print.

[2] Farley, Shannon. “Costa Rica Tops the World in Eco-Tourism.” Costa Rica Tops the World in Eco-Tourism. Enchanting Costa Rica, 2013. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://enchanting-costarica.com/hot-news/costa-rica-tops-the-world-in-eco-tourism>.