Responsible and sustainable travel - Is it here to stay?

Annual report reveals continuing growth and interest in responsible travel around the world.

For the fourth year in a row, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), a non-profit research institute based in Washington, D.C., has released their annual report making the case for responsible travel. The organization itself 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”.

CREST releases a variety of reports and publications, some of which are annual, related to coastal tourism, cruise tourism, ecotourism, indigenous tourism, and market studies. Their annual report, “The Case for Responsible Travel and Statistics 2016”, highlights four main areas: consumer demand for responsible travel, the business case for responsible tourism, the destination case for responsible tourism, and niche markets and responsible tourism. The latter area highlights experts and statistics in areas related to adventure tourism, agritourism, culinary tourism, orange tourism, sharing economy, and wellness tourism. Niche markets and responsible tourism is a new area the 2016 report highlights compared to the 2015 report, which did not have this specific data.

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

Consumer demand for responsible travel:

  • The 2015 “Good Travels” survey by Tourism Cares found 55% said that they volunteered or contributed financially or in-kind to a destination they had visited in the last two years (CREST p. 3)
  • About 73% of younger generations-Millennials and Generation Z- are more likely to pay more for sustainability, compared to 51% of Baby Boomers (CREST, p. 3)
  • Globally, 69% of travelers plan on trying something new in 2016…47% say they have visited destinations because of the people and culture of specific countries (CREST, p. 3).

Business case for responsible tourism:

  • Trip Advisor found 3 in 4 business owners are optimistic about profitability in 2016 (CREST, p. 4)
  • Nearly two-thirds of conference venues have electric car charging stations for employees and attendees, 87% have secure bike parking onsite, 33% have a green roof installed on the building, and 42% produce renewable energy onsite, while 59% procure offsite renewable energy. The most popular source of offsite renewable energy is wind (CREST, p. 4).

The destination case for responsible tourism:

  • In 2016, Ethical Traveler’s list of the World’s Ten Best Ethical Destinations includes: Cabo Verde, Panama, Dominica, Samoa, Grenada, Tonga, Micronesia, Tuvalu, Mongolia, and Uruguay. These countries as 2016 Ethical Destinations have all carried out significant efforts to switch to green energy. Many also have a strong strategy to tackle climate change (CREST, p. 6).
  • A number of destinations and their sustainability efforts are highlighted in the report on page 6. Countries such as Slovenia, The United States (Charleston, South Carolina), Morocco, and Kenya have initiatives ranging from comprehensive sustainable development plans to tourism strategies to enhance assets while combating climate change.

Niche markets and responsible tourism:

  • Between 1997 and 2007, nature and agricultural-based tourism was the fastest growing sector of the US travel and tourism industry. Rural tourism growth in Europe is three times greater than the increase in tourism in general (CREST, p. 8).
  • According to a 2015 survey, an estimated 39 million U.S. leisure travelers choose a destination based on the availability of culinary activities…(CREST, p. 9)
  • A 2014 worldwide survey conducted by the Cleantech Group showed that in North America, Airbnb guests use 63% less energy than hotel guests-which is enough energy to power 19,000 homes for one year (CREST, p. 10).

The 2016 CREST report reveals additional data supporting the categories outlined above which readers can review in the report free of charge. Additional reports are made available by CREST online. In addition, the report includes suggestions from leading experts that can help communities understand the importance of responsible/sustainable tourism. Growing interest in responsible and sustainable tourism is also demonstrated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) declaring 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism.

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 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.

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