Annual tourism report reveals growing interest in responsible tourism

Communities that support responsible tourism can reap the benefits of a strengthened local community while mitigating negative impacts on the environment.

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), a non-profit research institute based in Washington, D.C., promotes responsible tourism policies and practices globally so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity. CREST defines responsible tourism as “…many types of travel, all of which aim to minimize tourism’s negative impacts on the environment, and maximize the positive contributions tourism can make to local communities.” CREST also “recognizes the need to improve the social and environmental impacts of all aspects of tourism, from small-scale ecotravel, to large-scale resort tourism”.

Annually, they release a variety of reports and publications related to coastal tourism, cruise tourism, ecotourism, indigenous tourism, and market studies. A 2015 market study report in a row highlights three main areas: consumer demand for responsible travel, the business case for responsible tourism, and the destination case for responsible tourism. The revealing report is titled “The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends and Statistics 2015”.

A summary of results from the annual market study report discloses international consumers’ preferences.

Consumer demand for responsible travel:

  • Some 43 percent of respondents said they would be considering the ethical or environmental footprint of their main holiday in 2014, with nearly 10 percent more saying they would be doing so partially (CREST, p.2)
  • 47 percent of business travelers prefer staying in a green-certified hotel, according to Global Business Traveler Survey from 2013 (CREST, p.3)
  • 95 percent of business travelers surveyed believe that the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives and that sustainability will be a defining issue for the hospitality industry in 2015 and beyond, according to Deloitte’s Hospitality 2015 report (CREST, p.3)

Business case for responsible tourism:

  • A 2013 Conference Board survey of over 120 multinational corporations in Europe and the U.S found that 73 percent identified “integrating sustainability into their corporate strategy” as a top priority of their executive leadership team. (CREST, p4)
  • 85 percent of U.S. hoteliers indicate that they currently have “green” practices in place, according to a 2013 study by TripAdvisor. (CREST, p.4)

The destination case for responsible tourism:

  • The UNWTO predicts that ecotourism, nature, heritage, cultural and “soft adventure” tourism will grow rapidly over the next two decades… (CREST, p.5)
  • Sustainable tourism addresses the challenges head on, by protecting destinations at the same time as enhancing brand value, increasing profits, saving costs, and improving competitive positioning, both for attracting and retaining customers and recruiting the best talent, according to the 2012 study by The Travel Foundation and Form for the Future. (CREST, p.5)

The 2015 CREST report reveals additional data supporting the categories readers can review in the report itself. In addition, the report also includes suggestions from leading experts that can help communities understand the importance of responsible/sustainable tourism. For example, CREST’s report quotes Dr. Bricker from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council “Sustaining places sustains us as human beings. Without a healthy planet where industries operate, sustaining ecosystem services, where human rights are respected, where quality of life is improved, we really cannot exist long-term.” Communities that support responsible tourism can reap the benefits of a strengthened local community while mitigating negative impacts on the environment.

Tourism is a significant industry for Michigan, one that contributes considerably to the economy and supports a large number of jobs. In fact, approximately 214,000 people are employed in Michigan’s tourism industry. In 2014, Michigan generated about 2.4 billion dollars in taxes from tourism. Globally, tourism continues to grow without interruptions.

Michigan State University Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism. Specific programs, such as Understanding Tourism for Michigan Communities, are available for communities to host in partnership with MSU Extension’s tourism faculty.