Today the world celebrates World Tourism Day.
With the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) having designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, sustainability trends have a prominent role in all discussions and debates across the industry.
The key trends driving the shift towards sustainable tourism include the rise of responsible travellers, the desire for transformative travel, over tourism, and luxury ecotourism.
Focusing on the latter, luxury and eco traditionally belonged at the opposite ends of the tourism industry; luxury travel was believed to come only at a high cost to the environment, while eco-conscious travellers used to denounce experiences that involved any luxury element.
Yet, perceptions about both luxury travel and eco-tourism have greatly evolved in recent years and now consumers are driving the rise of a new type of travel, known as luxury ecotourism.
A recent GlobalData survey suggests the higher the income of households, the higher the likelihood to book an eco-tourism holiday.
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In particular, whereas 16 percent of US respondents with a household income between $20,000 and $34,000 were likely to book an eco-tourism trip, the figure increased to 25 percent earning $60,000-$99,000, and leapt to 57 percent in those whose income exceeds $150,000.
Such findings suggest a higher interest in eco-tourism among high earners, presumably because of the implied higher education levels and hence greater environmental consciousness.
At the same time, higher earners are the ones able to afford eco-tourism holidays which often tend to be overly expensive for lower earners.
Many luxury hotels have started capitalising on this trend, placing a greater emphasis on sustainable practices and eco activities both to reduce their environmental footprint, but also to attract more high-income customers.
For instance, the Whitepod Eco Resort in the Swiss Alps allows travellers to sleep in luxurious pod suites, while offering an immersive Alpine experience with several outdoor activities, with exceptional local dishes and drinks.
The pods reportedly have a light impact on the surrounding natural environment as they use only renewable resources.
Similarly, the Resurgence in New Zealand offers travellers the opportunity to stay in luxury eco-lodges.
The owners of the complex provide their guests with a simple but unique experience in nature , while ensuring that they are protecting the environment surrounding the lodges in every possible way.
For example, a native tree is planted for every guest that visits the lodges, while a strict predator control system has been put in place to conserve the biodiversity of the area.
Pressure from the imminent need to turn to sustainable tourism is often met by fears from stakeholders in the sector.
However, sustainable tourism and its surrounding trends create a host of new business opportunities that travel and tourism stakeholders should not ignore, as the case of luxury ecotourism points out.