Consumer education about responsible travel is critical

Just been reading a website for a lodge which claims to be providing an ecotourism experience while it clearly is doing no such thing. Yet another wake-up call.

All the current interest in the environment and local cultures has created a dynamic economic engine that can spur healthy economic growth in underdeveloped areas, but also may result in unsustainable growth followed by rapid downturns, called “boom bust” cycles. Past history has shown that the boom bust syndrome — in locations such as Hawaii or coastal Spain — were very destructive to the environment and for the local economy. Such economic cycles should be avoided, and are the antithesis of building a healthy and sustainable economy that benefits local people in the long term.

Statistics and research confirm that an increasing number of travellers will be reaching remote ecotourism destinations with greater ease, at less cost and faster than ever before, indicating that some ecotourism destinations may become vulnerable to the exact same boom bust cycles that have plagued more accessible destinations in the past. While a variety of lifestyle research studies show that travellers are concerned about environmental conservation and the welfare of local people, their travel choices do not appear to be based on these outlooks.

The consumers’ need to make responsible travel choices is increasingly pivotal to the success of ecotourism objectives, making it highly important that they understand precisely what a good ecotourism experience is. Consumer education campaigns help travellers distinguish between enterprises and destinations that make no effort to conserve, limit growth or benefit local people, and those that do. A greater focus on consumer education and guidelines for the selection of ecotourism experiences will strengthen the legitimate ecotourism marketplace and diminish the effectiveness of false claims of environmental and social responsibility (i.e. greenwashing).


1 Comment

  1. Just posted: Hidden Responsibilities of Responsible Travelers, at http://goo.gl/ViKrS This is relevant I think!

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