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Accessible Sustainable Ecotourism:
Necessary Market Adjustments in a New Age of Travel

By: Anthony Chamy - ecotoursonline.ca - Page 1 | Page 2

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The environment has become one of the most important criteria for today’s traveler. Whereas comforts and luxuries once played the major role in a traveler’s decision-making process, things have very much evolved since then. Today’s tourists are willing to pay for the preservation of the natural and social environments they seek to explore.

Tourism, one of the fastest growing industries, is being accelerated by globalization. The fast growing aviation industry, the free flow of information and the decreasing costs of communication are all factors affecting the new emerging ecotourism industry.

However, there exists an important paradox: a tourist destroys what he is searching for, while he discovers it. Large tourism corporations have followed the trajectory of generic mass tourism for economical reasons.

Thus the great challenge of ecotourism is to sustain economic growth while ensuring the long-term protection of the environment including both social and natural aspects.

The current market inefficiencies, such as the long value chains and the rigid structures tourism companies have created will allow for the small players to tap into the ecotourism market. By understanding the necessary adjustments, these emerging companies will have the opportunity to develop products and services that incorporate the new criteria that are in demand, creating more value for the end user.

The Paper

This work aims at bridging the gap between innovation management models traditionally used in high technology industries with the new emerging ecotourism industry. It also aims at giving small startups key tools for capitalizing on the new opportunities brought about by ecotourism.

Theories of innovation are based on analyses of high technology industry case studies. These have been at the forefront of management scientists for years, leaving such low-technology industries such as tourism, completely out of the scrutiny of world-renowned experts on the topic.

In this paper we aim at potentially bridging the gap between innovation management and tourism since it has been neglected for so long.

Even though the average perspective does not consider tourism as having an innovative aspect, we see ecotourism products and solutions as innovations in the tourism industry. We are thus aiming at creating a model for managing innovative ecotourism project initiatives and propelling plans for these projects right in the mix along with all other multimillion-dollar hotel, airport, park and marina mega projects.

It is using the latest innovation models developed for high technology industries and adapting them for the tourism industry that we will be able to identify the key success factors for this industry that contains unique dynamics and characteristics.

The environment for quality leadership

What represents the quality criteria for the typical tourist has changed in the past decade. One of the top criteria on every traveler’s list is the positive environmental impact. Every year, more and more travelers are willing to pay for taking advantage of an ISO 140000 sewage system or for having their garbage thrown in a good recycling program.

While people in poor and developing countries are looking for modernization, western travelers are now jaded by the generic trips to over-populated-with-tourist locations, and are beginning to search for simplicity, natural environments and primitive cultures. Hence, local developers in countries with good weather, rich flora and fauna, beautiful landscapes and authentic cultures should take these facts into consideration and develop high quality infrastructures and excursions.

Companies will have to align themselves with these expectations in order to attain (or remain) in a leading tourism industry position. In 2006, tourists expect tour operators, carriers and local service providers to be fully aware of the long-term affects their trips have on the surrounding environment, whether natural or social.

An example of this is TUI, one of the world’s largest corporations in the tourism industry, gone through the trouble of identifying target clients’ key criteria in three different categories:

Examples for destinations’ environment criteria: (1) bathing and beach water, (2) nature conservation, species preservation and animal welfare and (3) landscape and built environment.

Examples for hotels: (1) hotel gardens and surroundings, (2) water supply and waste disposal, recycling and prevention and (3) noise protection.

Examples for carriers: (1) pollutant and noise emissions, (2) energy consumption and (3) land use and paving over.


The Germans are one of the first documented cultures to identify this phenomenon. The phenomenon being the environment has become a major criterion in the tourist’s decision-making process. For the German ecotourism market, relative to the rest of the world, this is very much in its maturity phase. They have achieved this status in the same way that they lead the planet’s recycling movement.

An interesting study by the World Tourism Organization in 2002 demonstrated that tourists do not necessarily require their trips to consist uniquely of ecotourism activities. Rather, they see their ideal trips as a compliment to ecotourism activities. Thus, it is an added-value for tourists to know that they are traveling through the desert in a fuel-efficient Jeep for example, instead of being forced to take camels.

This confirms the fact that the general population is leaning more and more towards environmentally friendly trips, and not just a small group of Greenpeace activists. Such a trend will allow for the environment to be gradually included in all facets of tourism, without necessarily replacing what currently exists. This, in turn, will enable the phenomenon reach the tourism industry as a whole, and make a significant impact on the environment.

Next: Globalization and the Paradox of Ecotourism >>




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