The Case for an Environmentally Friendly Brand  

The Nature Conservancy adopted the following definition of ecotourism: “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

Specifically, ecotourism possesses the following characteristics:

  • Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior
  • Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
  • Support for local conservation efforts
  • Sustainable benefits to local communities
  • Local participation in decision-making
  • Educational components for both the traveler and local communities

Conservation has gone mainstream.  It is not a niche or an extreme activist movement.  A 2012 Trip Advisor survey showed that 71% of respondents said they plan to make more eco-friendly choices in the next 12 months, compared to 65% that did so in the past 12 months.  Further, an astounding 57% of travelers said they “often” make eco-friendly travel decisions, such as their choice of hotel.

This is a clear societal trend, not a fad.  Millennials and Gen X’ers are trending even more conservation- minded than prior generations.  Thus, developing an environmentally friendly destination brand is not only good for the environment but also good for business.  Without this, Clearwater risks losing its current share of the Florida tourism market, and other areas that develop and promote their destinations as environmentally friendly will be glad to have that business.  Other evidence of this growing trend is as follows:

  • AIG Travel’s 2017 Pulse Pole, based on 1,300 respondent travelers, reveals 78% reported that sustainable travel is “very important” or “somewhat important,” compared to 52% of respondents with that opinion in 2016.
  • A study by the Center for Responsible Travel proves it: Hotels and tour operators around the world such as Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Accor have been responding to this wave of interest in ecotourism by appointing senior management positions to oversee sustainability practices in their business operations.
  • A 2012 Nielsen Wire Survey showed that 66% of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society.
  • Other results from the Trip Advisor survey:
    • Half of the travelers surveyed would spend more money to stay at an eco-friendly accommodation.
    • Twenty-three percent would pay up to $25 additional per night to stay at such a property, while nine percent would be willing to spend $25-$50 extra.
    • Nearly a third of travelers (30 percent) would choose a destination for a trip because it is considered eco-friendly.

Conclusion:  An environmentally friendly destination is good for the environment and local marine life and is a growing factor in consumer travel decisions.  To protect our beaches and tourism-related jobs, Clearwater Beach must reset its brand or risk losing market share that may never come back.  Now is the time to recognize this and get ahead of the curve.