With the COVID-19 pandemic putting travel on hold nationally and internationally, 2020 has brought challenging and unpredictable times for the tourism industry. However, as a creative, resilient and optimistic community of ecotourism businesses, we believe we can come through this challenge even stronger – and maybe even help chart a new, more sustainable path for the tourism industry.

During these times of global uncertainty, we 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. Here’s what they had to say. 

Motivation & Benefits  

Ecotourism operators identified three top themes that were both motivators for joining Terra Incognita and benefits from having a tour or experience listed on the Terra Incognita website. Each of the following were ranked by at least 15 businesses as most important to them:  

  • Recognition as an ethical ecotourism operator
  • Being part of a community of ethical operators
  • Promotion of your tours and experiences

New Features 

We asked ecotourism businesses what new features they would like to see through Terra Incognita. At the top of the list was access to bloggers and writers, chosen by 26 out of 30 operators. Many businesses also recognised B2B networking and support, training, a code of conduct / ethical brand, and industry news as valuable to them.

Other suggestions from operators included opportunities to co-market tours, introduce destinations to others or provide discounted trips to the community.

Operators also expressed an interest in adding more tour listings to the website, running marketing campaigns (for example, encouraging travellers to postpone rather than cancel), having more interaction with other members and more engagement online.

One operator highlighted the need to educate the public about what ecotourism means, to help them identify ecotourism from operations that claim to be ‘ecotourism’ but that don’t take place in natural surrounds or support conservation, local communities or involve education.

Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct

Lastly, we asked participants whether they would be interested in an Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct for the industry. Twenty-eight operators responded that they would be somewhat to very interested, with 17 very interested in the opportunity.

As one operator wrote, “An independently-developed code of conduct/ethical brand that sets an industry standards is much needed and would be a fantastic thing to see. We developed our own, set our standards high and surpass where possible but it would be fantastic to offer the consumer some form of industry standard to be adhered to.”

What stood out most?

At team Terra Incognita, we were very excited to hear what ecotourism operators had to say and explore the results.

What stood out most to us was that no single benefit was most important to all operators. Instead, when we looked across operators’ motivation for joining, the actual benefits they received and the new features that interested them most, we saw three themes emerge:

  • 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

At Terra Incognita we love to be agile and to us that means not being afraid of change, and adapting quickly so we can have more impact. We’re working to refine and expand our memberships across these three themes, working together with ecotourism operators and sharing updates as we go.

If you have a suggestion you’d like us to know about, or a question, we’d love to hear from you at hello@terra-incognita.travel. 

Main image credit: Laura Martin / Unsplash.