TORONTO—More than 79 percent of American travelers hope to become more ethically-conscious in their future adventures, according to new research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Exodus Travels. As a leading adventure tour operator that has been committed to low impact tourism and elevating local communities for the past 45 years, Exodus decided to dig into how much the average traveler values responsible tourism practices in today’s world, so they commissioned OnePoll to survey 2,000 Americans (who have been outside of North America and the Caribbean in last three years), to get to the heart of the matter.
“We really just wanted to know more about how Americans are traveling,” says Robin Brooks, Exodus Travels’ Marketing Manager. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of indications that responsible travel was becoming more important to our travelers, but this survey shows that it’s more than just a trend—people really care about the impact they’re making on the planet.”
The data indicated that ethical travel is indeed on the rise; 78 percent of respondents consider themselves more ethically-conscious than they were 10 years ago. And while more than 91 percent of travelers surveyed reported that “ethical” travel was important to them, 39 percent are still feeling “travel guilt” over their past experiences abroad, particularly if they consisted of unethical practices such as swimming with dolphins or posing for photographs with captive wildlife.
Most Travelers Concerned About Where Dollars Spent
Those surveyed reported that a combination of personal research, heightened concern for the environment, social media, news coverage and watching documentaries like Blackfish made them more conscientious about their behavior as travelers. As a result, 74 percent of respondents said they’re concerned about where their tourist dollars are being spent, and 67 percent of respondents have committed to spending an average of six hours researching locations, businesses and attractions before booking.
What’s more, the average respondent stated they’d now pay 33 percent more if it meant their trip was guaranteed to have ethical components, such as learning about the destination’s culture and language from a local host, buying souvenirs from local artisans, supporting female-run businesses and having responsible tourism and wildlife policies.
With so much to consider, travelers continue to turn to tour operators, in part due to their ability to initiate actions that reduce waste, bolster communities and stimulate economies in-destination on a large scale.
The Clout of Tour Operators
“Tour operators have incredible clout when it comes to influencing hotels, parks and attractions to be more ethically-conscious,” says Tom Harari, Senior Manager: Responsible Tourism, Product & Commercial for Exodus. “Because they consistently bring customers to their partners on the ground every year, they have the power and resources to encourage—and assist in—the development of more responsible practices, whether that’s using less plastic or hiring more women in management positions.”
In addition to caring more about how they travel and with whom, the survey showed that travelers also value gender equality while abroad. While 72 percent of respondents stated they’d be more likely to travel with a company that supported women’s rights, more than 77 percent felt that encouraging women to become tour leaders and guides—presently a male-dominated role—was instrumental to reducing gender inequality.
“Women already make up a huge portion of the tourism workforce—especially in developing countries, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be given the same career opportunities as men,” says Robin Brooks, Exodus Travels’ Marketing Manager. “The fact that travelers are seeking out businesses that actively work to help create leadership opportunities for women is not only heartening—it shows that the status quo in tourism is changing for the better.”