Vacations and Travel - Trends: Ecotourism And Service-oriented Travel
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"Green" (advantageous to the environment) travel is important to many travelers. The 2002 TIA/National Geographic Traveler report Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel classified more than fifty-five million Americans as geotourists. This term was defined as people whose travel was intended to sustain or enhance the geographical character of the place being visited (including its environment, culture, aesthetics, and heritage) and the well-being of its residents.
According to the report, although most travelers were concerned with price and value, 58.5 million Americans said they would pay more to use a travel company that strove to protect and preserve the environment. Of these, 61% said they would be willing to pay 5% to 10% more. Almost a third of respondents said they believed it was important for travel companies they used to employ local residents and to support the local communities of their destinations, while 30% said they were "very" or "extremely" likely to buy products and services from companies that donated part of their proceeds to charitable organizations.
The TIA/National Geographic Traveler report also found that 71% of the traveling public felt it was important that their visit to a destination not damage its environment. Nearly two-thirds (61%) believed that their travel experience was better when a destination preserved its natural, historic, and cultural sites and attractions. Seeing and doing something "authentic" was also important, with 41% of travelers saying it made their experience better.
More than half of travelers were aware of at least one practice that travel companies employed to preserve and protect the environment of destinations. These included reusing towels and sheets, reducing energy use, and recycling, or using local vegetation on property grounds.
A late 1990s study by the Vermont-based Ecotourism Society reported that nearly half (48.1%) of the more than 3,340 surveyed participants indicated a degree of enthusiasm for activities such as biking, hiking, canoeing, and visiting parks, as well as observing animals and other wildlife when they vacationed. Of these nature enthusiasts, more than 30% were termed either "heavy users" (those who planned trips that involved nature-based recreation the majority of the time) or "moderate users" (those who planned trips that entailed some time spent pursuing nature-based activities).
The Ecotourism Society characterized the typical ecotourist as between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four, a college graduate, and as likely to be male as female. Experienced ecotourists preferred trips of longer duration, from eight to fourteen days, and were willing to spend more on travel than general tourists. The activities ecotourists favored included visiting parks, hiking, exploring preserved areas, and wildlife viewing.
A further trend in travel includes those foregoing traditional tourist excursions in favor of service trips that combine work and leisure, often in a foreign country. For example, Habitat for Humanity International offers a Global Village program that combines volunteer home-building activities with the opportunity to live with a host family abroad. Trips planned for July 2005 include building cement block homes near Lusaka at Tiyende Pamodzi in Zambia and building timber homes in Papua New Guinea.