ByAlison Lueders

Jun 23, 2015
oregon cliff

Travel is big business

It’s summer and faraway places beckon. Whether you’re looking ahead to an exciting outdoor adventure, a leisurely excursion, or an “I-just-want-to-sit-on-the beach”-type trip, you can’t wait to get away.

And you’re not alone. Harvard’s International Sustainable Tourism Initiative estimates that the travel and tourism industry is closing in on 9% of global GDP. (That’s huge.)

Travel is changing for the better

But travel and tourism are also changing as they grow. According to Sustainable Travel International, here are 3 key trends that are shaping travel and tourism in all its forms. Today’s socially conscious travelers aren’t just looking for the “hippest” destinations or new ways to “travel light.” They also want to:

The Nature Conservancy at Stone Lab
Image courtesy of Ohio Sea Grant. Photo Credit: Jeff Reutter.

1) engage with the places they visit.
They want deeper connections and more meaningful experiences. This can mean venturing beyond the hotel to see the local culture and eat the local foods. Or it can mean signing up for a pretty rigorous “volunteer vacation” trip. Travelers choose activities from maintaining nature trails or removing invasive species to helping scientists in the field with their observations and research.

The backdrop to your vacation, of course, is stunning natural surroundings, whether on land or sea. These trips often sell out and have waiting lists.

Here are 3 organizations that offer a range of trips of rare beauty and even rarer satisfaction.

Whether you’re a Boomer or a Millennial, travelers increasingly want more authentic travel experiences and truly unique memories from their trips.

2) give back through philanthropy funds.
These funds typically pay for projects that improve the natural environment in the local area and enhance the location as a travel destination. According to Sustainable Travel International, two such funds are:

  • Travel Oregon – Every 2 years, 7 Oregon projects are nominated to be recipients of the Fund – one from each of Oregon’s 7 tourism regions. Current projects include reintroducing native Olympia oysters along the Oregon coast, and restoring beach access to the newly swimmable Willamette River in Portland.
  • Torres del Paine – This national park in the extreme south of Chile has been damaged by 3 massive fires since 1985 – all accidentally caused by people. Current projects include reforestation and the introduction of recycling so residents can properly dispose of waste.

These funds let travelers partner with their favorite destinations to protect the locales they enjoy the most.

trainstation3) offset the environmental impacts of their trips.
Whether you travel by car, plane, train, or ship, your trip  creates greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

However, as the folks at say, “reduce what you can, and offset the rest.”  You can use a travel calculator like the one at NativeEnergy to see how many tons of GHGs your trip will create, and then choose to offset those.

Carbon offsets fund projects ranging from wind farms to landfill gas-to-electricity plants. So, in effect, your trip becomes carbon-neutral. For example, a flight from Tampa, Florida to Portland, Oregon will create 2.67 tons of GHGs, which can be offset with a payment of $42.

And of course, “traveling light” is still a good idea!

Greener trips are everywhere

Travel to new places is a wonderful thing. It’s always been a chance to relax, refresh, and recharge like nothing else. And these days, you have more options than ever to both enjoy these magical places and “regenerate” them a bit for your next visit.

Happy trails!

Feature image courtesy of Jeremy Piehler

By Alison Lueders

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Content - a green business certified by both Green America and the Green Business Bureau. She offers copywriting and content marketing services to businesses that are “going green.” Convinced that business can play a powerful and positive role in building a greener, more sustainable economy, she launched Great Green Content in 2011.