For more than half a century, the international tourism industry has expanded exponentially and is predicted to continue to grow in size and scope. But how is growth in tourism affecting the environment and culture of travel destinations? Professionals in the travel industry are making changes to enforce responsible travel and protect destinations. And as travelers become more aware of the importance of sustaining and preserving the environment and communities, they are increasingly choosing to travel responsibly to ensure that their experience does not have a negative impact on their surroundings.
Here are the latest predictions from out travel experts about responsible travel trends for 2015:
Trend #1: Eating Locally-Sourced Food
Indulging in the local, indigenous cuisine native to a destination is a unique experience that offers tourists the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in their surroundings. Trying a dish that is organic and authentic to that foreign destination enhances a traveler’s experience of a place and is also a way to decrease the pollutants caused by food transport vehicles, support local farmers and create job opportunities for the community.
Trend# 2: Interest in Preserving Cultural Authenticity
The rare characteristics of a culture, and the wonders that surround it, are what lure an individual to a particular destination. Travelers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and therefore, more inclined to visit a hotel or resort that ensures the preservation and maintenance of the authenticity of a destination. Rather than partaking in a “show” set up for the tourists, hoteliers are enforcing higher standards to preserve the true essence of a local community by creating a way for tourists and locals to coexist in harmony. This gives guests the opportunity to experience their surroundings in its truest form, visit local communities and schools, and meet and learn from those who live there year-round.
Trend# 3: “Voluntourism”, Philanthropy and Environmental Conservation
Travelers are not only interested in seeing the world, but also in helping to preserve and protect it. Travel companies are creating more opportunities for guests to give back to a local community or environment while on their stay. Travelers can make a difference and find a sense of purpose through a series of philanthropic opportunities that range from hands-on involvement, spreading awareness, or simply staying at a hotel that donates its proceedings to humanitarian causes. At Aqua Expeditions, one such activity allows guests to participate in protecting the endangered Taricaya turtles in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Peru. Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon guests help harvest the turtle eggs, build areas to protect them until they hatch, and then release them into the wild.
Trend# 4: Building Without Destroying
New hoteliers have become more aware of the areas they are developing by carefully constructing properties that blend in with the environment and cause minimal damage in the process. The neighboring wildlife is left in peace for tourists to enjoy and interior structures and designs are being made sustainable and eco-friendly. The recent construction of the Aqua Mekong from sustainably-harvested local materials is a fascinating example of how this can play out in practice.
Trend #5: A Stronger Focus on Saving Energy
Energy and water usage play a significant role in “green” and responsible tourism. Travel suppliers are making increased efforts to reduce unnecessary water usage by installing water-saving equipment and techniques including low-flow showerheads, 1.5 gpm aerators, serving water only when requested in restaurants, 1.6 gpm dishwashing valves, low-flow toilets, and waterless urinals. To conserve energy, hoteliers are addressing the issue through various means such as introducing energy management systems, fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen “makeup bed/no wash” guest cards, lights out guest cards, motion-censored lights for public rooms among others. All Aqua Expeditions vessels are all constructed with efficient engines, water-treatment facilities maximizing a low carbon footprint.
Responsible travel is predicted to be a long-term trend, uniting guests, staff, management, and local communities in more careful management of tourism destinations and encouraging healthy behaviors and local interactions that benefit all.