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2020 Travel Trends: Ecotourism & Voluntourism

Last updated on February 20, 2020
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One of the best ways to make your tour and activity business stand out from the competition is to show your guests that you stay up to date with the latest industry trends like solo travel, personalization, and local experiences. Two of the most relevant and quickly growing travel trends today are ecotourism and voluntourism (volunteer-tourism), travel styles that can have a significant impact on the environment, economy, and social issues of destinations around the world.

Ecotourism centers around finding ways to minimize the impact of travel and tourism on the environment and today’s travelers are no strangers to the concept. In fact, 87% of travelers want to travel sustainably, and 49% of travelers prioritize social issues when considering a destination, according to a Booking.com survey. As previously lesser-known and more remote global destinations become popular, the need to protect the local eco-system, as well as social aspects, of each location is increasingly critical in the push to make travel as unobtrusive to the local culture as possible.

a group of people standing in a garden

While travel can sometimes negatively impact a destination due to overcrowding, increased pollution, and other factors, it also has the potential to benefit communities. Voluntourism allows travelers to spend some of their holiday time volunteering in the community and learning about the local culture. Many travelers view this type of opportunity as an authentic travel experience that lets them connect with new people and places and to experience first-hand the real issues that other communities face.

Whether your business is located in an off-the-beaten-path destination or the middle of a bustling city, you can always find ways to help your guests travel in an environmentally friendly way. Read on for more information about ecotourism and voluntourism and how you can stay on top of these positive trends.

Ecotourism

As the tourism industry continues to grow, contributing to around 10% of the world’s economy, natural resources are becoming strained. This is because nearly half of tourism’s economic impact can be traced to only 10 destinations (including, Spain, France, China, and Italy), causing undue environmental stress from massive crowds of tourists concentrated in the same places. 

a close up of a person holding an animalWith this information in mind, more and more travelers are seeking out off-the-beaten-path destinations and experiences that have a minimal impact on the destination. In the past decade, 60% of travelers from the U.S. took a “sustainable” trip and think that they have a responsibility to avoid causing harm to a destination while traveling (Sustainable Travel International and Mandala Research).

If your tour and activity business operates in a less popular destination, you may be able to take advantage of this travel trend with minimal effort. To capitalize on your destination, be sure to update your website with high-quality photographs of your location and information about where your business is located, with an emphasis on the lack of crowds, pristine natural wonders, and other eco-friendly aspects of your business or location.

Do you offer tours and activities at a popular vacation spot that is known for drawing large crowds? Not to worry! There are many ways to be eco-conscious and draw savvy travelers to your business while setting your tours and activities apart from those of the competition.

How to Market to Ecotourists

Hoping to reach ecotourists as part of your target audience? A few changes to your website and offerings is all it takes to help guests make eco-friendly travel decisions. 

Advertise Sustainable Accommodations

One of the first ways to plan eco-friendly travel is by booking a stay at green or eco-friendly accommodations. According to a Booking.com study, the motivations for choosing a green accommodation include helping reduce environmental impact, wanting to feel good about an accommodation choice, and seeking a locally relevant experience.

What makes an accommodation green? Many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and more implement small changes to their operations in order to be more environmentally friendly. These include practices in water conservation like low flow toilets and showers and water recycling, saving energy through improved insulation, solar panels, or wind turbines, using locally grown foods to support farmers, and more.

How can you stay on top of the trend? Do the research on green accommodations so your tour guests don’t have to! Find some eco-friendly hotels or other accommodations in your area and include a list on your website for tour guests who are looking for a great place to stay. You can even make a deal with the accommodations to have them list your business on their website in exchange for featuring them on yours — a win-win!

Donate a Portion of Tour Proceeds to a Local Cause

a group of people posing for a photoDid you know that, according to Booking.com, two-thirds of travelers would be willing to spend at least 5% more on travel to ensure it was as low-impact on the environment as possible? Travelers want to see that their resources are going to a good cause. Draw in eco-friendly travelers by donating a portion of proceeds from bookings to an environmentally-focused cause like a conservation fund, local park, or volunteer organization. You could create a temporary promotion in your Dashboard for a special deal that allows people to book a tour or activity while donating to a good cause. You could also highlight some organizations on your websites and give people the opportunity to donate directly to them.

Blog About Your Location

Does your business blog regularly? (If you answered no, see why you should start a blog!). Write a guide to ecotourism in your town or city. Include topics like where to stay, eco-friendly travel options like taking public transit or renting bikes, restaurants with locally sourced or farm-to-table options, general travel tips, and more. You can even share some of the ways your own business has gone green! Share the blog post on social media to reach a wider audience.

Take Small Steps to Go Green

Highlight the environmentally friendly aspects of your business on your website! If you’re in search of more ways to go green, check out a few of our favorites.

  • Encourage tour participants to pick up after themselves. Give out reusable bags with your company logo for them to use during the tour to reduce the amount of waste created.
  • Consider making the switch to an electric vehicle if you offer transportation.
  • Reduce your own waste by avoiding printing when possible. Take online bookings for all activities and consider using electronic waivers to reduce paper.
  • If you serve food on the tour, use locally-sourced options and providers.
  • If you sell company merchandise like t-shirts, hats, and more, choose items made from recycled materials.
  • Make recycling and compost bins readily available at your location.

Voluntourism

Voluntourism is one of the best ways to set your business apart from the competition. It could be as simple as including a one-hour park or beach cleanup in one of your tour itineraries or as advanced as offering a multi-day volunteer trip.

Voluntourism allows communities to generate income without relying on natural resource extraction, which can harm the environment. Travelers are more concerned with authentic, experience-based travel, and volunteering is often the perfect way to connect with the community. In fact, 86% of global travelers would be willing to engage with activities, like volunteering, that counteract the environmental impact of their trip, and 54% of travelers would be happy to volunteer on their next holiday (Booking.com).

How can your tour and activity business stay on top of the trend? Can you add a volunteer aspect to the itinerary of one of your tours? Better yet, are you able to create a new tour or activity centered around volunteering? If these opportunities seem out of reach, do some research within your community and publish a blog post about volunteer opportunities that might interest your target audience. You can also point guests in the right direction if they ask about how to give back to the community.

Any environmentally friendly changes you make to your business are a step in the right direction! Even if you can’t offer volunteer opportunities or green transportation, you can still draw eco-tourists to your business by staying up to date and knowledgeable about the ecotourism trend. Research the steps your community has taken to be environmentally friendly and stay on top of other recent travel trends with this guide.

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