Travel junkies (including yours truly) all know there is nothing quite like the rush of adrenaline that jump-starts the heart when you first step foot in a foreign land. New sights, sounds and smells flood the senses. Elation, apprehension and, more often than not, exasperation make up the emotional soup of the day.
At 9 percent of global GDP, the tourism industry is one of the largest in the world, contributing $6.6 trillion to the world economy and generating more than 260 million jobs. Despite continuing economic challenges, international tourist arrivals grew by 5 percent in 2013, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts a 4 to 4.5 percent growth in 2014.
As rewarding as traveling may be for the traveler, this is not always the case for the communities where the traveler treads. There is a common misconception that simply spending money in a country benefits local communities -- but there indeed are profound, adverse social and environmental consequences.
With continuing growth in travel, there is increasing recognition among both travel professionals and consumers of the importance of responsible travel – travel that minimizes negative impacts, brings economic benefits to host communities, and preserves the cultural and natural resources of the destinations. Responsible travel also can be good for the bottom line.
According to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) 2012 Tourism in the Green Economy Report, tourist choices are increasingly influenced by sustainability considerations. Eco-tourism, nature, heritage, cultural and “soft adventure” tourism are predicted to grow rapidly over the next two decades, and global spending on ecotourism is expected to increase at a higher rate than the tourism industry as a whole.
So, what are the primary problems associated with travel? What are some solutions?
An emerging form of travel called “experiential” tourism holds promise for solving many of the above ills. This type of travel encompasses eco-tourism, nature, heritage, cultural, soft adventure tourism, rural and community tourism. It also is one of the areas in the tourism sector expected to grow the most in the coming years, according to UNWTO.
Experiential tourism involves active participation by travelers in the experience and promotes activities that draw people outdoors, and into cultures and communities. It is personal and individual; experiential tourists seek memorable experiences above all else.
After all, isn’t that what travel is all about?
Photo Credit: Flickr Cuba Gallery
Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator that revels in driving the conversation at the intersection of sustainability, social entrepreneurship, tech, politics and law. He has cultivated diverse experience working for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., helping Silicon Valley startups with strategic communications and teaching in South America. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@mikehower)
Currently based in Washington, D.C, <strong>Mike Hower</strong> is a new media journalist and strategic communication professional focused on helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. To learn more about Mike, visit his blog,<a href="http://climatalk.com/" > ClimaTalk</a>.