When we wrote ‘Into 2020‘, we couldn’t have imagined the challenging and unpredictable year in store – particularly for the ecotourism industry.
When the global pandemic first hit and international travel ground to a standstill, many ecotourism businesses lost their main income source overnight.
But they didn’t lose their passion, creativity or determination.
We’ve been blown away by the resilience of the ecotourism community. Many businesses have used this year to innovate, finding new ways to engage people with nature online, communicating sustainability messages to a captive audience, or preparing exciting, new post-Covid experiences.
Their commitment to helping wildlife and local communities hasn’t wavered, it’s been strengthened.
At the same time, there’s a rising global demand for more sustainable travel post-Covid – and a network of partners, bloggers and influencers ready to support it.
Together, this shows us that we can come through this challenging year far stronger.
Today the Terra Incognita community has grown to more than 100 Ethical Ecotourism Providers and more than 180 Eco-Bloggers, as well as partners including ecotourism experts and conservation organisations – not to mention the Eco-Travellers who support ethical experiences.
As we begin 2021 we’ve taken a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this year, and to thank every single one of you who has joined our mission to empower a global community that travels for good.
You’re the reason we’re here, and you give us enormous hope for the future of travel.
Travel Blogger of the Year
We kicked off 2020 by announcing the winners of Travel Blogger of the Year, a competition designed to raise awareness about our planet’s incredible places and people.
The competition engaged over 57,336 people from 178 countries worldwide and attracted 155 entries, growing our network of Eco-Bloggers to over 180.
Travel writer Erik Gauger won the Judges’ Choice Adult category with ‘The Places Between,’ a story about finding your own road, rather than chasing a destination.
The Judges’ Choice Youth competition awarded seventeen-year-old Rhianyon Larson’s Glacier National Park, which explores climate change through the lens of a favourite park and the familiar stages of growing up.
In total, Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 awarded 12 bloggers in the Judges’ Choice and Readers’ Choice Adult and Youth categories with over US $4,000 in binoculars from SWAROVSKI OPTIK, courses and more.
Ecotourism Operator Survey 2020
When the COVID-19 pandemic first put travel on hold, we hit pause and asked our community of ethical ecotourism operators how we could better support them now and into the future.
Thirty-five ecotourism businesses from South America, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Pacific took our 2020 membership survey, highlighting three themes:
- Recognition as an ethical ecotourism operator – with potential for an ethical code of conduct that is easily recognisable by consumers.
- Being part of a community of ethical operators – with opportunities for B2B networking, learning and support.
- Promotion of tours and experiences – with potential access to bloggers and writers, as well as B2B marketing.
Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct
What if we could better promote ethical ecotourism and drive positive outcomes for people and wildlife globally as we enter a new stage of travel?
Our ecotourism operator survey highlighted the need for a global Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct for the industry, to help recognise ethical operators, and help tourists make more informed decisions.
In April 2020 we began developing a global Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct for ecotourism operators. The Code has been generated by a global community that includes ecotourism operators, industry experts, media representatives, local and Indigenous people and tourists.
We’re now working with a group of Founding Partners to finalise how we’ll monitor, police and promote the code.
Eco-Blogger Survey 2020
We asked our community of Eco-Bloggers to tell us how they’ve benefitted from our blogging competitions and the Terra Incognita Eco-Blogger Network, and how we can better support them in future.
Thirty-five bloggers from Europe, North America, Asia and Africa took our 2020 blogger survey, highlighting two main themes:
1. Community – Connecting with like-minded people who share similar interests, values and goals
- Collaboration and networking opportunities.
- Learning / Education – Sharing knowledge, skills, practical tips and examples; honing their skills and receiving critique; being challenged and creative.
- Contribution – Using writing to raise awareness about ecotourism, connect people to wildlife and benefit the planet.
2. Promotion and Profile – Opportunities to promote their work to wider audiences, boost their profile, get exposure and find paid work
Terra Incognita Eco-Bloggers
We’ve been blown away by the bloggers and influencers we’ve met from around the world who share our passion for creating positive change for people and planet through travel.
Our global network of Eco-Bloggers is now over 180 members strong and continues to grow. They are travel bloggers, science communicators, conservationists and others who share a passion for ethical travel.
In May 2020, we welcomed our first official Eco-Bloggers to Terra Incognita – talented writers who share interviews, insights and inspiration on our blog to help engage others in ethical ecotourism.
Here are just a few examples of their stories:
Eco-Blogger + Partner collaborations
Our 2020 surveys showed that ecotourism providers and Eco-Bloggers would love opportunities to collaborate and work together.
If you’re an ethical ecotourism provider who would like to work with Eco-Bloggers to support your goals, please email us.
Top Ethical Birding Ecotours 2020
First launched in 2018, our third annual Top Ethical Birding Ecotours 2020 list grew to include over 85 tours in 40 countries across six continents.
Launched during Virtual Birdfair 2020 – an annual event for birdwatchers – the list aims to recognise outstanding birding tour operators and help birding travellers make more informed choices.
It features experiences that seek to conserve the environment, support local people and educate guests and hosts.
First launched in 2019, our Top Ethical Costa Rica Ecotours 2020 list includes 40 tours across the country of ‘pura vida’.
Imagine exploring Costa Rica while ensuring that your experiences benefit the country’s wildlife, communities and cultural heritage. Or discovering Costa Rica’s hidden gems – small, up-and-coming tours that haven’t yet been picked up by international tourism radar.
Top Ethical Eco Experiences | Operators Choice
To help those suffering from wanderlust during COVID-19, we asked the experts – our Ethical Ecotour Operators – to tell us about their favourite ecotours.
Are you looking for a more ethical way to travel that supports the wildlife, communities and culture you experience? These are 15 of the best eco experiences in Africa, Asia, Central America, South America and Europe for responsible travellers to get excited about when travel resumes.
Webinar | COVID-19 and the Future of Ecotourism
How can travelers plan a safe eco experience? How can businesses survive and thrive during COVID-19? What’s being done to ensure true ecotourism?
In our first free webinar we speak to guests from TREE, Iwokrama and Adventurely about COVID-19 and the future of ecotourism.
As the Terra Incognita journey continues, we keep learning more about how to create positive impact for people and planet through travel – together.
We’re currently working with a group of Founding Partners to finalise our Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct, which we’re excited to launch in 2021.
We’ll be releasing updated and expanded editions of our Top Ethical Birding Ecotours and Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours lists, as well as brand new lists as we actively discover new ethical experiences.
We’re also excited to share more collaborations that pair ethical ecotourism providers with Eco-Bloggers to showcase their ecotours and initiatives.
As you know we’re agile, so you can expect us to keep innovating to empower a global community that travels for good.
THANK YOU to our passionate community of ethical ecotourism providers, Eco-Bloggers, partners, tourists and supporters who have been part of our journey.
We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved together despite this year’s challenges, and we look forward to creating a world where tourism drives positive change for people and wildlife with you.