Climate Tourism: Does Travel Create Environmental Awareness?

A tourism cruise ship at Antarctica.
(Picture by goneforawander, from Flick) A recent article published by Tierramerica warns about the growth of the so called 'climate tourism,' describing it as, "A mix of legitimate interest in protecting nature, the desire to see rare wildlife on the verge of extinction, and, of course, the search for profit."

According to the article, tourism companies are now using climate change as a marketing tool, offering to take people to places endangered by global warming or with species in the verge of extinction. We know tourism is many times bad for delicate environments, but some sectors say this could also be a good way for people to grow an interest in protecting the planet.

Keep reading and tell us what you think, Do 'climate tourists' become 'climate activists'?Exotic travelers' interest in remote and strange places has grown a lot in the past years, but traffic to those destinations is proving to be a complicated subject.

On one hand, massive tourism to delicate environments most times has a negative impact on them. For example, the increase of traffic to Galapagos was damaging the islands ecosystem and caused the Ecuador government to take measures to protect them. On top of this, accidents like the sank of a cruise ship in Antarctica last December (which left a petrol stain five kilometers long) prove how hard it is for tourism to truly be safe and responsible.

However, travel is growing: 4.3 percent per year for the last 10 years, to be exact. And ecotourism and nature tourism is growing three times faster than the industry in general, states the mentioned article (Tierramerica, 10.14.08).

"Climate change is reshaping the planet. Some islands will vanish and others will be uncovered as glaciers and ice sheets melt. Animals and plants are going extinct at a rate that will accelerate as the planet continues to heat up. And there is a strong, perhaps perverse, desire in many people to go and see rare things," says the piece.

In response to this, operators are aware of the negative aspects of tourism and are trying to do their parts in not just taking people there, but communicating them details about the dangers of global warming and climate change.

"Although the tourists might not mention climate change specifically, tour guides do tell them about the impacts at both poles. Six in 10 customers say they want to take action to make a difference. They're not climate tourists, but some will become climate activists," says to Tierramerica Prisca Campbell, of Quark Expeditions, which organizes trips to the Arctic and Antarctic.

What do you think? Does tourism drive awareness? How far can we go in the search for the exotic?

::Original article