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Modern travel = socially responsible tourism

Tourism is the sector of industry with the highest global growth rate. At 58%, Europe occupies the top spot in international tourism.

Quite a few people, however, see the growth of tourism as one of the fundamental causes of our current problems. It is often closely related to the increasing emission of gases harmful to the climate, as a result of increased vehicle and air transport, to the spoiling of the landscape by unsuitable cultivation, to environmental stress as a result of thoughtless disposal of refuse and sewage, and to the waste of energy or lack of respect and consideration for the local inhabitants, their culture and customs.

For some time, however, there has been an increase in approaches which demonstrate that the tourist industry is gradually becoming aware of its responsibilities and is even allowing itself to be used as a means of solving pressing problems. Examples which spring to mind are the growing number of modern eco hotels, the WTO’s “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism”, the climate protection projects in developing countries, financed by environmental compensation agencies such as Atmosfair or NativeEnergy, WWF’s species-people approach14 or the Peace Parks13 in regions of former conflict. In this context, the National Park movement in America at the end of the 19th century should not be forgotten. Even back then, John Muir was convinced that tourism fostered public interest in the protection of nature. But railway companies, such as Edward H. Harriman’s Southern Pacific Railroad, which wanted to stimulate their tourism business, also supported this movement. Thus the National Park movement succeeded in laying the foundations for the greatest attraction in the American tourism business over 100 years ago. If you seek confirmation of this fact, it suffices to look at the front page of any North American travel catalogue whatsoever, in any travel agency in Germany, Great Britain, Japan or France.

This trend towards a socially responsible tourism is gaining additional momentum thanks to the followers of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). They connect brand awareness with an ecological and ethical awareness: „I am shopping, thus I am the boss“. According to the relevant results of the market research you will find Lohas in all sociodemographic groups. Years ago merely unthinkable, success stories like those of Bionade, a Bavarian and organic soft drink (2003: 2 Mio. bottles – 2007: 200 Mio. bottles) or American Apparel producing clothing in the high-wage country California (opening 140 flagship stores worldwide within a few years, full-year net sales of $250.0 million and „sweatshop free“) are illustrating the terrific speed of this trend breaking into the markets. The size of the market just in the U.S. is estimated in $209 billions per annum (food and healthcare products account for more than half of all). It is estimated that one third of US citizens and each fourth in Germany belongs to the LOHAS-Group (AC Nielsen, W&V 2008). Boston Consulting is predicting that in 2020 the sustainable market will employ more people than the automotive industry. No less a figure than John Doerr, one of Google´s first investors and widely regarded as one of the top technology venture capitalists in the world declared „greentech will be the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century“. The Zukunftsinstitut predicts that the global markets for consumer goods will be dominated by LOHAS as early as 2015.