In the ever-growing tourism and services industries, finding a niche market that values your expertise and sound practices can be challenging. The competition is high and we tend to think that reducing prices and turning towards mass tourism might be the answer. Unfortunately, this is just the fastest way to neglect your product for a profit that in the end it is not as worthy, considering the efforts involved in meeting the expectations of just any type of visitor. Knowing to which customer profile you want to cater is key to thrive in the tourism market.
In this line of thought, there is a shift taking place in the industry that is well worth to consider and anticipate: the shift towards ecotourism. In this article, we analyse the benefits of becoming an early adopter of an emerging tourism model that in time will (hopefully) become the norm.
1. Consumer demand for ecotourism is rapidly growing.
If you are the type of business owner that believes that ecotourism is yet another trend created by a bunch of hippies, we got news for you. The hippy community is rapidly growing! According to VISIT -The Voluntary Initiative for Sustainability in Tourism, the ecotourism market will grow to represent 5% of the global tourism industry in just about ten years. Additional research to consider is a recent survey undertaken by TNS Global that shows that 95% of people say protecting the environment is important to them personally, while the number of people purchasing environmentally-friendly products more than doubled between December 2007 and December 2012. Last but not least, another survey by consulting firm Deloitte concluded that “95 per cent of business travellers believe that the hotel industry should be undertaking ‘green’ initiatives and that sustainability will become a defining issue for the hospitality industry in 2015 and beyond”. Will this trend expand to the tours and activities sector? We think so!
2. You will differentiate yourself from your competition.
Finding the niche within the niche, the big red (green?) ribbon that will make your business stand out from all others in your field. Same as a pet friendly business…making your business an ecotourism business will make you stand out and will gain you customers that are more conscious and concerned about the environment (and it won't hurt in terms of attracting those who aren't!).
3. Your neighbours will love you endlessly.
Going eco means supporting your local economy by building relationships with local suppliers and other businesses in your area to deliver your costumers an authentic, local experience. By investing in your local community and joining forces with everyone in it, you contribute to build a far more attractive tourist destination. Go local and join forces! That is part of the grandeur of ecotourism.
4. You will improve your customer experience.
By turning to sustainability you will deliver a better experience to your customers, as ecotourism means going the extra mile to include a meaningful connection to your local natural & cultural heritage as part of your value proposition. This added love will be appreciated by travelers who seek to engage in sustainable and responsible travel, but also by regular visitors who may not identify with such "alien" concepts.
5. Efficiency saves money.
By applying sound environmental practice to your daily operations, you can reduce water and energy costs. Who's not in for that? Environmental stewardship can further attract talented employees who are also committed to the environmental cause, hence bringing motivation and forward thinking minds into your workforce.
6. What goes around comes around.
Seems rather obvious, but taking care of the environment will contrbute to sustain the natural beauty that allies with you in delivering an outstanding experience to your customers. Taking care of the environment is simply taking care of future business. And it feels good too. For example, if you are a tourism operator who delivers activities in the outdoors, interactions with wildlife might be a regular part of your day-to-day experience. We have put together a set of guidelines to help you identify some good environmental practices that you can adopt to start putting your best foot forward for your local environment. It also includes some ideas for great conversations that you can have with your customers about challenges affecting the Ocean and how to contribute to making things better. We trust you'll find them useful!