This article on the Adventure Travel and Trade Association about empowering women through adventure really embodies how natural resources can bring prosperity and raise the quality of life of the local populations.
ATTA has been instrumental in encouraging the Adventure Tourism industry to adopt sustainable practices and take into consideration the impacts on local populations. The organization offers various programs and workshops to help companies grow their businesses while spreading good will and being environmentally conscience.
This article goes through three case studies of women in Africa and Latin America who have had to overcome challenges in order to do what they love and earn a living. They are truly inspirational stories that show what can be done with determination and hard work.
It also provides a window in the lives of the adventure guides and a provides a model for others facing similar challenges.
Travel and Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and a powerful force in the outdoor economy. There are certain resources to become familiar with.
The ITB Conference is one of the most important events in the travel and tourism industry. As tourism continues to play a vital role in the world economy, it becomes more important to stay on top of the trends.
There is always a report with the main points discussed at the conference. The ITB website is full of resources and PDF copies of the slide presentations.
When it comes to tourism in the outdoor economy, there are certain trends that cannot be ignored for anyone looking to boost their competitiveness.
Global digitalization is here to stay and continues to evolve. Online bookings are going to increasing and the use of mobile devices and social media are taking over. Travelers increasingly look to the social media comments before making a buying decision and seem to be waiting until closer to their travel dates to make their plans. The competitive advantage will go to the companies that are tech savvy, flexible, and able to maintaining social clout. The use of new Apps to tell your story are exploding on the market place. There is also the challenge of building and maintaining relationships with the top bloggers.
All of this can become overwhelming and take a lot of time. That is why it is more important to measure your ROI and be selective on where you put your resources if you want to be effective.
Sustainable Traveler and the Ecotourist
over 14% of people are traveling internationally
While the general traveler is staying for shorter periods of time, spending less and looking for better all inclusive deals, the ecotourist, adventure and geotraveler travelers are staying longer, spending more, and seeking more authentic experiences.
Businesses looking to cater to this niche are seeking sustainability certifications and are offering more options for health and wellness. Destinations that have recognized this are making adjustments to encourage and attract this type of tourist.
Developing Countries in Asia and Latin America are poised to for the high growth in the coming years.
As the economic conditions continue to improve for countries like China, India, and Brazil, the local populations are beginning to reach out. This growth trend has been going on for some time and is likely to continue well into the future. Being able to speak the language and cater to the cultural differences will help to position companies to attract these markets.
The most successful operations will be able to use the tools available to them to communicate trust and respect while maintaining their authenticity.
What will be the results of this unprecedented, recent decision by the the United Nations?
It is hard to care that much about the environment when you are hungry and struggling to survive.
Poverty continues to plague many parts of the world.
Indigenous populations face many challenges such as lack of food, clean water, education and opportunity.
They look for what ever means necessary to add to their circumstances and help feed themselves.
There may be solutions within the beautiful landscapes and among the flora and fauna that don’t include burning or poaching.
Efforts that are made to understand the natural and cultural stories and share them with the world could attract a growing demographic of travelers.
Many local populations do not realize the value of the stories that they have learned growing up in their area. The time they have spent observing the wildlife and listening to the stories of their ancestors may hold more benefit than they are aware of.
Few people in rural communities that are surrounded by natural areas understand that their adventures off into the wilderness may have given them specialized knowledge that can be turned into revenue for themselves and their families.
Trends show that a growing number of travelers are more interested in learning about the history and culture of the places they visit and interacting with the local populations.
Places that have unique flora and fauna are of particular interest to certain travelers and nature enthusiasts.
Policy makers are beginning to realize the power of tourism to bring much needed economic development to impoverished areas.
In December 21, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a landmark resolution entitled “Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection”, “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger”. It further recognizes that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage”.
There is genuine concern when developing a tourism industry that it may have negative implications.
Sometimes tourism can be destructive and developments can block access for local populations from enjoying their own land as well as threaten their culture, environment and heritage sites.
Several municipalities have created regulations that prevent the destruction of natural areas and promote an atmosphere that will attract conscientious visitors that are drawn to the flora and fauna rather than the high-rises and night clubs.
Studies have shown that these travelers tend to spend more money, stay longer, and have more positive impact on the places they visit. More of their money tends to find it’s way into the local economy.
It takes time and investment to develop sustainable tourism. Building capacity needs to be done systematically with a well thought out plan and process.
Policy makers and stakeholders need to be sensitive when dealing with local populations that have a history of being marginalized.
The UN resolution draws on information in a report by The World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, which encourages a number of initiatives that include creating cooperation among stake holders and creating financial mechanisms such as microcredit for the poor and in local and indigenous communities, in rural areas that have ecotourism potential.
Examples of potential of constructive and destructive tourism development can be found all over the world and used as a reference when moving forward.
Tour operators that have learned to provide quality outdoor education opportunities are creating a win-win-win situation.
They are providing a positive learning environment for their guests and are attracting families.
They are creating family bonding experiences where both adults and children are having fun learning together and spending time being active outdoors.
They are creating more satisfied customers who will help to spread the news about the operation and the influence that it has had on them.
They are increasing their occupancy and creating a competitive advantage over other similar operations.
They are creating more responsible citizens that will have a ripple effect on the long-term outcomes of the area.
They can attract school, church and other student groups who enjoy the who are looking for the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while they learn about the environment.
Creating the right programs that will attract these families takes some research and talented staff.
Successful strategies for developing environmental education program can be learned by others who have spent years developing and refining their programs and are now reaping the benefits.
There are several keys to developing an environmental education program for your guests:
Do Your Research
Get a good understanding of the most successful programs that others in your field have offered to get an idea of what people are looking for and responding to.
Take inventory of your environment and assets
Think about what you can realisticly offer your guests. Sometimes it is just about adding an education component to what you already have.
Analyze from your client’s perspective
Consider the logistics of how your guests will participate taking into account transportation, space and sitting room.
Think about what you will need to purchase in order to run the program.
It may be a good idea to consider building a dedicated interpretive center and central place for promoting and booking.
Hire the right people
Your staff will be critical to the success of your program. Make sure you do a thorough vetting process to make sure your staff has both the knowledge and personal skills to educate and entertain while being patient and professional. Personal skills and professionalism are most important.
Knowledge can be gained through training. The right staff will increase their knowledge for themselves overtime.
Leave a comment with your questions if you are interested in providing environmental education opportunities for your guests.
If you already run or are involved in successful environmental education, please add your expertise so as to help others who are creating their own.
If you are interested in providing environmental education programs for your guests. Please leave a comment or contact me.
Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and the Real Value of Parks and Natural Resources
As sequestration goes into effect, deep budget cuts are being felt by parks, nature reserves and wildlife refuges. The staffs at these facilities are considering whether to close down their nature centers, lay off personnel, and shut down certain programs for the year in order to save money.
Are they really saving money?
In the summer of 2012, I went to a seminar and heard a presentation by Michael Kirschman who was making the economic case for parks and natural areas.
The argument for keeping parks and natural areas funded have often been made mainly on visitation numbers and “quality of life” issues without real quantifiable data to show their economic value in other areas.
Mecklenburg County Staff spent time compiling real data to show the economic and health benefits of parks and natural areas in real numbers.
Their report findings covered several areas including water quality, air quality, real estate value, tourism, direct revenue, and health.
Some of what they found was that the nature preserves in their county:
filters and helps to reduce 27000 gallons of run-off per year to save potential $58+ million dollar infrastructure costs,
removes $2.2 million worth of pollution from the air
is responsible for 20% increase in property values leading to $1.2 million in additonal tax revenue
creates $8.8 million in direct and indirect tourism revenue
significantly reduced the $300 billion businesses spent on stress related health issues
This adds up to a combined $69million/year benefit and 350% return on investment of what is being spent on the nature preserves.
The article goes on to quote studies that have produced similar results in Philadelphia and New York that are responsible for billions in revenue and thousands of jobs. [see attached article: ParksValueMorethanJustAesthetic]
The real value of natural resources is not always obvious.