Magazine article The Futurist

The Conscientious Tourist: Ethical Choices Influence Travelers' Vacation Planning

Magazine article The Futurist

The Conscientious Tourist: Ethical Choices Influence Travelers' Vacation Planning

Article excerpt

Tourism continues to surge as a world economic force, contributing nearly $5.5 trillion to the world's economy in 2004. A growing trend in travel is the desire of many tourists for non-typical tourist experiences, such as "ethical" adventures.

Ecotourism, geotourism, and propoor tourism are among the increasingly popular niches in the travel industry that aim to address consumers' ethical concerns, reports the Worldwatch Institute. Which hotel more actively protects the environment? Which offers better support of its local community? Such questions may be more important to vacationers than a hotel's proximity to the beach or the type of mint left on the pillow.

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One factor driving this conscientious tourism is the growth of international travel, which exposes visitors to the impacts they may have on the cultures and environments they visit. International tourism grew by 10% in 2004, and the number of international tourist arrivals will reach more than 1.5 billion by 2020, predicts the World Tourism Organization.

Low-cost air travel is contributing to this increased international travel, but one result is more air pollution and other environmental costs that are not factored into the price of tourism. Now, environmentally conscious travelers can choose an airline that offsets its carbon emissions by purchasing credits for the amount of miles they fly, Worldwatch reports. The traveler pays more for the flight, but is assured that the extra money is invested in green technologies, reforestation projects, or other efforts to counter the emissions produced by that flight.

Eagerness to attract the ethical dollar may lead to unethical marketing practices, raising the specter of "greenwashing." "The increasing market demand for responsible tourism has led many businesses to adopt names suggesting they are environmentally responsible," warns Worldwatch researcher Zoe Chafe in Vital Signs 2005. "While some are indeed examples of true ecotourism, many others are not. They may make superficial changes to their operations, encourage guests to reuse towels (a move that saves water, but that is often motivated by a desire to cut costs), or actually do nothing to improve their operations. …

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