Global mass tourism used to be dominated by tour operators offering low-cost, standardized package tours to destinations ideal for “sea, sun and sand” vacations.
However, tourism consumption patterns do seem to change and according to the World Tourism Organization, tourism demand trends since the mid-80’s reflect the increasing diversity of interests of the late-modern leisure society with the emergence of Special Interest Tourism (SIT) revealing the new values which include ‘‘increased importance of outdoor activities, awareness of ecological problems, educational advances, aesthetic judgment and improvement of self and society’’.
At the same time, the number of people travelling for holiday each year is predicted to reach one billion in 2012.
Until last week, the changing tourism consumption pattern has been an abstract for me. In my family we usually arrange our own holiday trips and book flights, car rentals and hotels according to our own taste. Package tours has never been to our liking.
This week though, my appreciation of package trips have changed in a fundamental way.
About one year ago, a colleague of mine asked if we wanted to come with them and some friends to sail for a week. We live by the sea, but we have never really done sailing, so we thought it was a good idea and could be a new experience for us.
Being here on the sea, what an amazing experience it is. As it turned out, the sailing boat we are on is the Star Flyer, one of three ships in the Star Clipper fleet. The ship is a replica of the clippers, the fast sailing ships of the 19th century, although with hotel facilities rather than storage room for cargo.
Only a few years ago, ships used to dump their waste at sea. The Star Flyer has replaced its stabilizers with an efficient waste cleaning system. With trips like this, tourism has become a sustainable carbon neutral business.
During day trips on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama, we take the tenders to go onshore to visit secondary rainforests. 30-40 years ago, the primary rain forest was cut down to give space for banana and papaya plantations. In 1985, United Fruits moved out and let the forest regrow.
Today the rainforest is almost as it was initially, with both flora and fauna returned close to its original state. Cut down rainforest has regrown in 30 years.
I am very happy to support sustainable development.
Thus, threats of terrorism, pandemic outbreaks, natural calamities and, pesky security checks notwithstanding, the international tourism industry is booming. Place destination branding has become a matter for sustainable and eco conscious destinations and tourism has become a key economic driver globally, and is one of the main sources of income for many developing countries, such as Costa Rica.