Volunteer group Andaman Discoveries has sought to blunt the negative impact of tourists on the Surin Islands. The organization worked with the Mokens to develop a unique tour group that focuses on their cultural heritage, and preserve the environment.
“This project enables the Moken to…generate benefits including job development, educational culture exchange, Andaman client relations manager Lindsey Reding told CNBC. By creating sustainable tourism, the Moken can “remain within their community and strengthens their cultural heritage,” Reding added.
The organization specializes in a community-based tourist model that includes facilitating experiences, volunteer services and service projects that give directly back to the locals.
Programs focus on nature conservation, but also human rights and sustainable development, in a way that spurs “meaningful, educational and memorable experiences for both the guest and the host,” Reding said.
Reding said most communities see income boosted by as much as 30 percent when they participate in the organization’s programs. Meanwhile, tourists are exposed to the traditional and authentic lifestyle of the cultures they visit.
Part of the growth of sustainable tourism movement is aided by the attitudes of travelers. Justin Francis, the founder and CEO of UK-based Responsible Travel, said that awareness among vacationers has “massively” changed.
“When we first started, people didn’t know what we were talking about,” Francis said.
Now, “there is an increase of consumers seeking experience and memories,” he noted. “This desire is more suited for supporting responsible travel rather than luxurious travel.”
Like with Andaman Discoveries, visitors who take part in these activities tend to learn more about the environment in which they vacation, while the respective communities can reap the economic benefits.
Economically, the sustainable approach can be profitable as well. A 2016 study by Sustainable Travel International and Mandala Research revealed that eco-tourists tend to stay longer, spend more, and believe they have a responsibility to respect the destination.
Over the last three years, 60 percent of U.S. travelers reported taking a “sustainable” trip and say they have a responsibility to make sure their trips do not cause harm to a destination.
“Ten years ago, [sustainability] was more of an inconvenience, said Vail’s Bertuglia, “and now it is appreciated and ingrained,” Bertuglia from Vail said.