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A new meta-analysis of dozens of recent tourism surveys and market studies finds “increasing recognition among both travel professionals and consumers of the importance of responsible travel.” The analysis by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC and affiliated with Stanford University, also finds “strong evidence” that responsible travel is “good for the economic bottom line.”
CREST’s study, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends and Statistics, examines a wide range of surveys and studies done in the past five years to assess commitment to responsible travel, that is, “travel that minimizes negative impacts, brings economic benefits to host communities, and preserves the cultural and natural resources of the destinations.” For instance, a groundbreaking Harvard Business School study found that companies that adopted environmental, social, and governance policies in the 1990s outperformed those that did not, while a Nielsen survey found that 66% of consumers globally prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society. This definitely extends to travel: 93% of Conde Nast Traveler readers said that travel companies should be responsible for protecting the environment.
CREST’s findings coincide with two important milestones in the growth of the travel industry: for the first time ever, international tourist arrivals surpassed one billion in 2012 and international tourism receipts exceeded $1 trillion in 2011. According to the CREST analyses, tourism industry growth is being matched by growing interest in responsible travel among both leisure and business travelers as well as travel businesses and tourism destinations.
“Over the last decade, CREST has periodically conducted similar analyses of tourism trends and statistics. Never before has there been such an abundance of evidence demonstrating that socially and environmentally responsible travel has now entered the mainstream. It crosses age and income groups, different types of tourism, and destinations around the globe,” says CREST Co-Director Dr. Martha Honey.
While the new CREST study draws heavily upon recent studies and surveys conducted in the United States, it also cites findings from other countries, including Russia, Namibia, Botswana, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Germany, U.K., and elsewhere in Europe and the Americas. Further, it notes a range of life style shifts and preferences that reinforce a growing trend towards responsible travel. These include urbanization and a need to connect with nature, consumer demand for authenticity and experiential tourism, a search for fulfillment, inter-generational travel, and a growing interest in volunteer vacations and travelers’ philanthropy.
“The tourism sector is embracing responsible tourism not as an option, but as a condition for its continuous growth,” states Luigi Cabrini, the World Tourism Organization’s Director for Sustainable Development. He adds, “Recent United Nations research highlights that investing in sustainability reduces costs of energy, water, and waste and enhances the value of biodiversity, ecosystems, and cultural heritage, while responding to increasing demand from travelers for greener tourism. The empowerment of local communities, poverty reduction and new, additional jobs also result from more responsible tourism approaches, spurring tourism’s contribution to broader development goals.”
The CREST study is endorsed by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and six other leading tourism organizations and institutions.