In a landmark study, the Travel Industry Association of America
(TIA) has documented the strong feelings U.S. travelers have about preserving the natural environment as well as history and culture. The report called, Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel, showed that more than three-quarters of American travelers feel it is important that their visits not damage the environment. And 62 percent say it’s important to learn about other cultures when they travel. Furthermore, 38 percent of travelers say they would pay more to use a travel company that strives to protect and preserve the environment. The two-part study was sponsored by National Geographic Traveler and is the first to define geotourists as specific psychographic groups and also begin to track their preferences.
“This type of examination of U.S. travelers’ awareness, habits and attitudes has never been done before. In so many aspects the U.S. traveler impacts the tourism industry worldwide—but especially financially,” noted Dawn Drew, vice president and publisher of National Geographic Traveler. “It is important that the industry begin to understand what interests and motivates these individuals to spend more and to select destinations and businesses in the travel industry.”
There are more than 55 million Americans that can be classified as Geotourists. Geotourism encompasses all aspects of travel - not just the environment. Its definition—tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of the place being visited, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents—describes completely all aspects of sustainability in travel, and hits all of the definable touch points associated with providing the authentic travel experiences that travelers demand today.
“We found that millions of travelers, or geotourists, are aware of travel companies that practice sustainable tourism and they’re poised to support the travel industry’s geotourism efforts with their travel dollars,” remarked Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association of America. “In fact, many of them would be willing to pay a premium for travel services from companies that engage in geotourism practices.”
Findings from the Geotourism: New Trend in Travel study:
p>*One-third of all travelers are influenced by a travel company’s actions to preserve the environment and/or history and culture of destinations, indicating that travel companies’ geotourism efforts do get noticed by a good portion of travelers.
*Although most travelers are concerned with price and value, 58.5 million Americans say they would pay more to use a travel company that strives to protect and preserve the environment. Most important, the majority (61%) of those who would pay more to use such companies would in fact pay five to ten percent more.
*Authenticity is important to travelers. Many (61%) believe their experience is better when their destination preserves its natural, historic, and cultural sites. In addition, 41 percent of travelers say their vacation experience is better when they can see and do something authentic.
*The majority of travelers are ready to act to preserve and protect our natural sites. Nearly 91 million travelers (59%) support controlling access to and/or more careful regulation of National Parks and public lands in order to help preserve and protect the environment.
*A significant number of travelers (54 million) are inclined to select travel companies that strive to protect and preserve the local environment of the destination. For a smaller group of travelers (17 million), the environment is top of mind when actually making decisions about which travel companies to patronize.
*Millions of American travelers will buy from companies and organizations that are culturally and socially oriented. In fact, 46 million travelers buy from specific companies because they know that these businesses donate part of their proceeds to charities.
*More than half of all travelers (80 million) are aware of at least one practice employed by travel companies to preserve and protect the environment of destinations. Travelers are most often aware of companies that ask customers to reuse towels/sheets (55 million travelers) and those that use energy saving practices (46 million travelers). More than 32 million travelers are aware of travel companies that recycle and/or that use local vegetation on property grounds.