Ecotourism, responsible tourism, and sustainable development have become marketing targets since the late 1980s worldwide. Arguably ecotourism has experienced the fastest growth of all sub-sectors in the tourism industry. The popularity represents a change in tourist perceptions, increased environmental awareness, and a desire to explore natural environments. Such changes have become as much a statement affirming one’s social identity, educational sophistication, and disposable income as it has about preserving the Amazon rainforest or the Caribbean reef for posterity. Ecotourist are interested in seven main activities or experiences, namely:
- Developmental Tourism: sustainable community enhancement
- Adventure Tourism: a diversity of seasonal silent sports adventures
- Nature Tourism: communing with nature
- Cultural Tourism: Indigenous peoples, maritime culture, and European settlements
- Educational Tourism: an interstate learning experience
- Economic Tourism: cost effective ecotourism opportunities
- Environmental Tourism: environmental restoration awareness
Governmental agencies and non-profit conservancy groups need to offer visitors eco-travel alternatives that include all seven experiences that allow the ecotourist to feel like they are contributing to the sustainability of rural communities across the United States. Targeted eco-friendly adventure packages must be developed at the State level as well as regionally to most proactively communicate via websites, chamber’s, and convention and visitor’s bureaus. With a greater necessity to educate our rural “career lifestyle” businesses the importance of offering year-round silent sport adventure opportunities that teach and allow for a sense of communing with nature.
By default, these ecotourism activities can become a development tool. On that basis alone, emulating such a plan for rural communities and the States they exist as a whole can become a catalyst for attaining a sustainable livelihood for current and future residents through tourism revenues. Ecotourism, therefore, is a vehicle for delivering sustainability to our rural communities, and cultural enhancement while combining an adventurous “staycation,” with a regional travel/learning experience for entire families, groups, and dynamic corporate retreats.
The Ecotourism Industry Evolution
The first steps in building an Ecotourism Industry are to identify and highlight the key ecotourism locations, activities, experiences, opportunities, and relevant non-profit projects. Once identified these viable, sustainable ecotourism businesses can be recognized. Numerous business opportunities exist for those interested in developing rural Northern Michigan ecotourism orientated businesses. Modeled on the Nations successful tourism projects over the last two decades as revenue generated ecotourism “staycations,” I’ve created a proposal plan that can strengthen the same possibilities for rural communities across the Nation. “Staycations,” as defined is a neologism, that stands for a period in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home or takes day trips from their home to local area attractions. Staycations achieved high popularity in the US during the financial crisis of 2007–2009 in which unemployment levels and gas prices were high. Priming a “21st Century Global Knowledge Economy,” that our rural communities can prosper from in all for seasons Nationwide.
This proposal provides the reviewers with a preliminary insight into ecotourism with the intention to expand the existing tourism assets include national recognizable ecotourism products that can be marketed confidently to local, regional, and worldwide markets. All seven components of the ecotourism industry need to be featured initially and eventually consolidated within proven itineraries as the expertise develops within these ecotourism markets local entrepreneurship will also begin to take root.
Eco-travelers want to feel they have made a positive contribution to the places they visited. Generating revenue for rural business owners and local people, therefore, State Departments of Natural Resources, Conservation groups, and other NGO’s should work together in rehabilitating and enhancing
Eco-travelers are generally either very adventurous by nature and enjoy experiencing new activities for the first time. Therefore our rural communities need to think beyond the hook, bullet and snowmobile / ORV rooted activities. Recognizing the unique seasonal silent sports adventures and natural attractions.
Ecotourism is about offering new experiences that create memories exceeding the expectations that travelers may have had. Adventure tourism is just one such process. Ecotourism outfitters should encourage such adventurous experiences such as winter rafting, Earthcaching, birding, and so many other seasonal silent sports opportunities should be assessed individually for its target market potential.
Eco-travelers seek out pristine ecosystems abundant with wildlife, geographical and geological landscapes unique to each destination. Coupled with migration bioregions that sustain, threatened and endangered species. With as many fish, amphibians, reptile’s, wild flowers, and woodland edibles that can educate local’s and traveler’s alike of the locations biodiversity.
The Indigenous People of Turtle Island extinction is near, and their populations were treated worse by European immigrants than any other acts of genocide in the history of humanity. European settlements erased historical landmarks and spiritual traditions of the Frist People. Communities that embrace the cultural heritage of the Tribal Nations won’t only peak the eco-travelers interest but invaluable as an ecotourism marketing tool. The Native American reservations are mostly known for their gaming casino’s and rarely acknowledged for their traditions, folklore, legends, and culture, Which also offer an incredible marketing resource to our sustainable rural communities hosting eco-travelers.
The fact ecotourism, also known as “ecological tourism” is a science, and that the development of tourism is a science. So ecotourism will become more of an educational experience as we learn to market it locally, and regionally. Ecotourism by definition is a travel learning experience. Therefore academic studies such as archeology, anthropology, entomology, environmental science, leisure management, economics, ecology, and sociology have an important role to play in formulating an ecotourism plan for any rural community and needs to be designed to be educational for visitors, locals, ecotour operators and tourism stakeholders alike. The proposer then suggests that ongoing involvement of students, researchers, and academics, promoted statewide as well as Nationally through such activities as Earthcaching.
Silent sports tourism nationally contributed $730 billion. In the neighboring State of Wisconsin it accounted for nearly 4% of the gross state product. Contributing over $9.7 billion annually to the economy, creating 129,000 jobs, over $570 million in annual state tax revenue, and produces $7.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Wisconsin in 2007. This could be a significant injection into the sustainability of our rural economies that are otherwise somewhat depressed, lacking employment opportunities and lacking business investment opportunities.
Eco-travelers are generally interested in environmental issues and welcome the opportunity to learn about local efforts to protect the environment. From protecting our watersheds to the spawning sturgeon, the Kirtland warbler, and Grey wolf all Northeast Michigan’s environmental concerns must be incorporated into the Ecotourism Plan, and the steps need to be taken to ensure that locals and eco-travelers actually help protect the environment they visit. Our Ecotourism Plan needs to encourage sustainable livelihoods in peaceful and equitable environments were eco-travelers can learn about the environmental issues while participating in environmental programs that actually improve the destination which they visit.
In conclusion, the best way to build an Ecotourism Industry is to expose eco-travelers to all the above 7 components of ecotourism, introducing them to one component at a time which can be the answer to the perfect “eco-staycation.”