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Sustainable Tourism: 10 Most Important Trends

Sustainable Tourism Trends

As academics specializing in the travel, tourism and hospitality (TTH) industry, we have trained and advised dozens of companies in their journey towards sustainable businesses. There is so much more sustainability than just the standard greenwashing statements. TTH firms are accountable and must take the changes taking place seriously, from Greta Thunberg ´s movement to new priorities in the World Economic Forum´s agenda or the ever-growing list of world moguls taking on a leading role in the fight against climate change. For that reason, we have identified 10 sustainable tourism trends that will influence business strategies right now.

Each trend is an opportunity for TTH firms to provide services that align with consumer values, the Sustainability Development Goals agreed by the Member States of the United Nations as part of the Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2030, and the triple-bottom line accounting framework to evaluate business value in a broader perspective that includes social, environmental and financial outcomes.

#1 - The time for isolated green initiatives is over

Green-washing is ever less acceptable . Current challenges demand a comprehensive sustainable business model—one which places sustainability at the core of your corporate strategy, business practices and operations.

The bottom line: Come out with a new way of doing business, one that cares and walks the talk.

Building a sustainable business strategy won’t be quick or easy—but waiting is not an option.

#2 - Carbon emission compliance is no longer an option

TTH firms need to have a greenhouse gas inventory for their companies. Still today not many companies have one.

#3 - Implementing an ambitious emission plan pays off

Companies are accountable for reducing their emissions. Some can try a modest carbon-neutral way. A better objective is to reduce overall emissions by 5% each year.

Leading TTH companies should go all the way down the road just like Microsoft recently did , when it stated that by 2030 “Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.”

The bottom line: Which TTH company will take up the torch and be the first carbon negative company?

Offsetting, which has now become the preferred get-out clause, especially for the aviation sector, is no longer an option . It's cheap and focuses on forests, which are not a secure, long-term storage of carbon (see California or Australia). What we really need are sustainable fuels to power aviation in the future, this will never happen if everybody is just buying cheap offsets.

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#4 - Data for action, not just analysis

The old good saying “you can´t manage what you can’t measure” has never been more valuable. But how so?

First, assess emissions and formulate a strategy to reduce footprint.

Second, set up a dashboard with key sustainability indicators.

Finally, be certain about your sustainability strengths when making prospective decisions: Can you foresee the impact of your next hotel opening? Is your next merge with a travel operator sustainable, i.e., positive in long-term economic standards?

The bottom line: Measuring processes and managerial decisions is the way to solve the sustainability challenge and, by doing so, to keep stakeholders informed about it.

Scorecards are critical in sustainability assessment, implementation and forecasting. Just like the newest Bloomberg Green´s Data Dash “Better data will lead the way to a sustainable future."

#5 - Less bottom-line operational mindset, circular economy and sustainable resource management


The bottom line: Actively promote the development of multi-stakeholder systems with suppliers, local community and customers.

Sustainable resource management means reduction, better planning and management of resources: single use plastic, green energy, electricity, water; textile, chemicals, raw materials to name just a few.

#6 - Food waste is not an option (if it ever was)

One resource that requires special attention is food. Food has cultural, social, symbolic and heritage significance. As research shows, the food waste challenge can and must be solved with management practices and innovations.

The bottom line: Food waste says it all: a shame for humankind and the planet.

Our latest research on food waste suggests that the introduction of different management innovations provides financial benefits in terms of cost savings, cost avoidance and revenue growth. Yet, professionals lack systematic implementation of waste reduction strategies.

#7 - Speed up business action by aligning with Sustainability Development Goals


#8 - Be proactive with global environmental policy

Until recently, firms were compliant with local government regulations and policies. The road to sustainability has provided legitimacy to global players, such the UN Agenda 2030. TTH firms must get actively involved with these regulatory bodies and the new international global development agendas.

The bottom line: Collaborate with global players as they bet on more ambitious sustainability goals than local institutions.

Compliance was yesterday. Since ordinary politics has done such a poor job in proactively tackling sustainably, companies need to do whatever they can and more.

#9 - Put Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) in your corporate agenda

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria are the three central factors taken into account when measuring the sustainability and societal impact of investment in a company or business. All the largest private equity investment funds have pledged to the Sustainability Standards and Policies laid out by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation .

The bottom line: Hedge funds and private equity will prioritize investments in those companies that incorporate ESG provisions proactively.

#10 - Green-washing is never an option

It is time to answer those hard hitting, inconvenient questions: Inasmuch as airlines say otherwise, there is no sustainable cheap travel. Likewise, to this date, luxury accommodation and transportation are not sustainable businesses.

The bottom line: Customers are more educated than ever and are increasingly making wise decisions. The reputational damage of misleading customers will have serious implications for the future of TTH companies. Go back to trend #1 and step up your sustainability efforts in response!

2019 has seen a massive change in the perception of responsibility for the environment. Individuals make their choices more critically and expect companies to make significant contributions as well. To talk the talk is no longer enough - reputational risks are now very real. Change must be seen as an opportunity. We have already supported many corporations to get a head start with clear benefits for early adopters implied.

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Travel, Tourism & Hospitality

Sustainable tourism worldwide - statistics & facts

What are the effects of global tourism on the climate, traveler awareness of social and environmental responsibility, key insights.

Detailed statistics

Ecotourism market size worldwide 2022-2028

Tourism-related transport's share of carbon emissions worldwide 2016-2030

Global travelers who believe in the importance of green travel 2022

Editor’s Picks Current statistics on this topic

Current statistics on this topic.

Leisure Travel

Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy 1965-2022, by region

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Industry overview.

  • Premium Statistic Ecotourism market size worldwide 2022-2028
  • Premium Statistic Sustainable initiatives travelers would adopt worldwide 2022, by region
  • Premium Statistic Conscious travelers' challenges when traveling in a sustainable manner worldwide 2022
  • Premium Statistic Global travelers opinions on the efforts of tourism sectors to be sustainable 2020

Market size of the ecotourism sector worldwide in 2022, with a forecast for 2028 (in billion U.S. dollars)

Sustainable initiatives travelers would adopt worldwide 2022, by region

Main sustainable initiatives travelers are willing to adopt worldwide in 2022, by region

Conscious travelers' challenges when traveling in a sustainable manner worldwide 2022

Challenges of travelers when trying to travel in a sustainable and socially conscious manner worldwide as of March 2022

Global travelers opinions on the efforts of tourism sectors to be sustainable 2020

Travelers opinions on the sustainability efforts of selected sectors in the tourism industry worldwide as of January 2020

Environmental impact

  • Basic Statistic Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy 1965-2022, by region
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  • Premium Statistic Carbon footprint of tourism-related transport worldwide 2005-2030
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Carbon dioxide emissions from energy worldwide from 1965 to 2022, by region (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide)

Tourism-related transport's share of carbon emissions worldwide 2016-2030

Share of carbon dioxide emissions coming from tourism-related transport worldwide in 2016, with a forecast for 2030

Carbon footprint of tourism-related transport worldwide 2005-2030

Carbon dioxide emissions from tourism-related transport worldwide in 2005 and 2016, with a forecast for 2030 (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide)

Carbon footprint of international tourism transport worldwide 2005-2030, by type

Transport-related emissions from international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2005 and 2016, with a forecast for 2030, by mode of transport (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide)

Carbon footprint of domestic tourism transport worldwide 2005-2030, by type

Transport-related emissions from domestic tourist arrivals worldwide in 2005 and 2016, with a forecast for 2030 (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide), by mode of transport

International tourism figures

  • Premium Statistic Number of international tourist arrivals worldwide 1950-2022
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Number of international tourist arrivals worldwide 1950-2022

Number of international tourist arrivals worldwide from 1950 to 2022 (in millions)

Number of international tourist arrivals worldwide 2005-2022, by region

Number of international tourist arrivals worldwide from 2005 to 2022, by region (in millions)

Countries with the highest number of inbound tourist arrivals worldwide 2019-2022

Countries with the highest number of international tourist arrivals worldwide from 2019 to 2022 (in millions)

Traveler opinions

  • Premium Statistic Global travelers who believe in the importance of green travel 2022
  • Premium Statistic Global travelers opinions on the importance of eco-friendly travel 2020
  • Premium Statistic Global traveler opinions on the importance of eco-friendly travel 2020, by age group
  • Premium Statistic Share of global travelers that want to use green lodging in the next year 2016-2022
  • Premium Statistic Travelers who think it is important to choose a responsible hotel brand globally 2021
  • Premium Statistic Reasons global travelers stayed in sustainable lodging at least once last year 2022
  • Premium Statistic Demand for sustainable hotels by global corporate travel managers 2022

Share of travelers that believe sustainable travel is important worldwide in 2022

Global travelers opinions on the importance of eco-friendly travel 2020

Share of travelers that believe choosing an environmentally-friendly travel option is important worldwide as of January 2020

Global traveler opinions on the importance of eco-friendly travel 2020, by age group

Share of travelers that believe choosing an environmentally-friendly travel option is important worldwide as of January 2020, by generation

Share of global travelers that want to use green lodging in the next year 2016-2022

Distribution of global travelers intending to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation when looking at the year ahead from 2016 to 2022

Travelers who think it is important to choose a responsible hotel brand globally 2021

Share of travelers that believe it is important to choose a hotel brand that operates responsibly worldwide in 2021

Reasons global travelers stayed in sustainable lodging at least once last year 2022

Main reasons travelers stayed in sustainable accommodation at least once over the past year worldwide in as of February 2022

Demand for sustainable hotels by global corporate travel managers 2022

Importance of hotel sustainability for business travel buyers worldwide as of October 2022

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  • Review Article
  • Published: 19 April 2020

Past, current, and future perspectives on eco-tourism: a bibliometric review between 2001 and 2018

  • Ziphozakhe Theophilus Shasha 1 ,
  • Yong Geng 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ,
  • Hua-ping Sun 5 ,
  • Walter Musakwa 6 &

Environmental Science and Pollution Research volume  27 ,  pages 23514–23528 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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A Correction to this article was published on 23 February 2022

This article has been updated

With increasing attentions on climate change, solid wastes, over-tourism, and improved environmental awareness worldwide, eco-tourism has been widely promoted worldwide. This requires that governmental agencies at different levels should prepare appropriate policies to facilitate eco-tourism and local communities should take necessary actions to preserve their natural resources, protect their environment, and support sustainable tourism. Academically, literatures on eco-tourism have increased faster with an annual growth rate of 10–30% during the recent years. Under such a circumstance, it is important to conduct a comprehensive review so that research progress on eco-tourism can be summarized and future research directions can be identified. Based on 1771 publications published during 2001–2018, a systematic method combining bibliometric analysis and network analysis is applied in this study to uncover the dynamic trends, academic collaboration, and research hotspots related with eco-tourism. Results show that the total number of relevant publications has gradually increased. Key journals include Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management , Annals of Tourism Research , Conservation Biology , and Biological Conservation . Authors from USA have the most publications and international co-authorships, while the most influential institution is the Chinese Academy of Science. Moreover, research keywords have been identified, including eco-tourism, management, biodiversity, national park, sustainability, and sustainable tourism. Research findings of this study provide valuable insights to further improve eco-tourism research so that this emerging research field can be proactively fostered.

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ecological tourism trends

Change history

23 february 2022.

A Correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-022-19404-7

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This study is financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71810107001; 71690241) and the big data project funded by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU-2019UGBD-03).

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School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200240, China

Ziphozakhe Theophilus Shasha & Yong Geng

School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, No. 1954 Huashan Road, Shanghai, 200030, China

China Institute of Urban Governance, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200240, China

Shanghai Institute of Pollution Control and Ecological Security, Shanghai, 200092, China

School of Finance and Economics, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China

Hua-ping Sun

Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Walter Musakwa

National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan

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Shasha, Z.T., Geng, Y., Sun, Hp. et al. Past, current, and future perspectives on eco-tourism: a bibliometric review between 2001 and 2018. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27 , 23514–23528 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-08584-9

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Ecotourism and sustainable development: a scientometric review of global research trends

1 Department of Management Science and Engineering, Northeast Agricultural University, Harbin, 150030 China

2 Faculty of Economic and Management, Mudanjiang Normal University, Mudanjiang, 157011 China

Changlin Ao

3 College of Engineering, Northeast Agricultural University, Harbin, 150030 China

Associated Data

The data that support the findings of this study are available from Web of Science.

With the increasing attention and awareness of the ecological environment, ecotourism is becoming ever more popular, but it still brings problems and challenges to the sustainable development of the environment. To solve such challenges, it is necessary to review literature in the field of ecotourism and determine the key research issues and future research directions. This paper uses scientometrics implemented by CiteSpace to conduct an in-depth systematic review of research and development in the field of ecotourism. Two bibliographic datasets were obtained from the Web of Science, including a core dataset and an expanded dataset, containing articles published between 2003 and 2021. Our research shows that ecotourism has been developing rapidly in recent years. The research field of ecotourism spans many disciplines and is a comprehensive interdisciplinary subject. According to the research results, the evolution of ecotourism can be roughly divided into three phases: human disturbance, ecosystem services and sustainable development. It could be concluded that it has entered the third stage of Shneider’s four-stage theory of scientific discipline. The research not only identifies the main clusters and their advance in ecotourism research based on high impact citations and research frontier formed by citations, but also presents readers with new insights through intuitive visual images.

Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10668-022-02190-0.


Ecotourism, which has appeared in academic literature since the late 1980s, is a special form of nature-based tourism that maintains the well-being of the local community while protecting the environment and provides tourists with a satisfying nature experience and enjoyment (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1996 ; Higgins, 1996 ; Orams, 1995 ). With years of research and development, ecotourism has risen to be a subject of investigation in the field of tourism research (Weaver & Lawton, 2007 ). In 2002, the United Nations declared it the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE), and the professional Journal of Ecotourism was established in the same year.

With the progress and maturity of ecotourism as an academic research field, countless scholars have put forward standards and definitions for ecotourism (Sirakaya et al., 1999 ; Wight, 1993 ). The main objectives of ecotourism emphasize long-term sustainable development (Whitelaw et al., 2014 ), including the conservation of natural resources, the generation of economic income, education, local participation and the promotion of social benefits such as local economic development and infrastructure (Ardoin et al., 2015 ; Coria & Calfucura, 2012 ; Krüger, 2005 ; Oladeji et al., 2021 ; Ross & Wall, 1999 ; Valdivieso et al., 2015 ). It can also boost rural economies and alleviate poverty in developing countries (Snyman, 2017 ; Zhong & Liu, 2017 ).

With unrestricted increasing attention to the ecological environment and the improvement of environmental awareness, ecotourism is becoming ever more prevalent, and the demand for tourism is increasing year by year (CREST, 2019 ). This increase, however, leads to a number of environmental, social and economic challenges in the development of ecotourism. For example, due to the low public awareness of ecotourism, the increase in tourists has brought a series of negative impacts on the local ecological environment, culture and economy, including disrespect for local culture and environmental protection, as well as more infrastructure construction and economic burden to meet the needs of tourists (Ahmad et al., 2018 ; Chiu et al., 2014 ; Shasha et al., 2020 ; Xu et al., 2020 ). Such challenges and contradictions are urgent problems to be tackled by the sustainable development of ecotourism. Especially against the backdrop of the current pandemic, tourism has experienced a severe blow, but climate change and other environmental issues have not been improved (CREST, 2020 ). In this context, facing these challenges and difficulties, it is essential to re-examine the future development path of ecotourism, to explore how government agencies can formulate appropriate management policies while preserving the environment and natural resources to support sustainable tourism development. Accordingly, it is necessary to consult literature in the field of ecotourism to understand the research progress and fundamental research issues, to identify challenges, suitable methods and future research direction of ecotourism.

Some previous reviews of ecotourism offer a preview of research trends in this rapidly developing area. Weaver and Lawton ( 2007 ) provide a comprehensive assessment of the current state and future progress of contemporary ecotourism research, starting with the supply and demand dichotomy of ecotourism, as well as fundamental areas such as quality control, industry, external environment and institutions. Ardoin et al. ( 2015 ) conducted a literature review, analyzing the influence of nature tourism on ecological knowledge, attitudes, behavior and potential research into the future. Niñerola et al. ( 2019 ) used the bibliometric method and VOSviewer to study the papers on sustainable development of tourism in Scopus from 1987 to 2018, including literature landscape and development trends. Shasha et al. ( 2020 ) used bibliometrics and social network analysis to review the research progress of ecotourism from 2001 to 2018 based on the Web of Science database using BibExcel and Gephi and explored the current hot spots and methods of ecotourism research. These reviews have provided useful information for ecotourism research at that time, but cannot reflect the latest research trends and emerging development of ecotourism either of timeliness, data integrity, research themes or methods.

This study aims to reveal the theme pattern, landmark articles and emerging trends in ecotourism knowledge landscape research from macro- to micro-perspectives. Unlike previous literature surveys, from timeliness, our dataset contains articles published between 2003 and 2021, and it will reveal more of the trends that have emerged over the last 3 years. Updating the rapidly developing literature is important as recent discoveries from different areas can fundamentally change collective knowledge (Chen et al., 2012 , 2014a ). To ensure data integrity, two bibliographic datasets were generated from Web of Science, including a core dataset using the topic search and an expanded dataset using the citation expansion method, which is more robust than defining rapidly growing fields using only keyword lists (Chen et al., 2014b ). And from the research theme and method, our review focuses on the area of ecotourism and is instructed by a scientometric method conducted by CiteSpace, an analysis system for visualizing newly developing trends and key changes in scientific literature (Chen et al., 2012 ). Emerging trends are detected based on metrics calculated by CiteSpace, without human intervention or working knowledge of the subject matter (Chen et al., 2012 ). Choosing this approach can cover a more extensive and diverse range of related topics and ensure repeatability of analysis with updated data (Chen et al., 2014b ).

In addition, Shneider’s four-stage theory will be used to interpret the results in this review. According to Shneider’s four-stage theory of scientific discipline (Shneider, 2009 ), the development of a scientific discipline is divided into four stages. Stage I is the conceptualization stage, in which the objects and phenomena of a new discipline or research are established. Stage II is characterized by the development of research techniques and methods that allow researchers to investigate potential phenomena. As a result of methodological advances, there is a further understanding of objects and phenomena in the field of new subjects at this stage. Once the techniques and methods for specific purposes are available, the research enters Stage III, where the investigation is based primarily on the application of the new research method. This stage is productive, in which the research results have considerably enhanced the researchers’ understanding of the research issues and disclosed some unknown phenomena, leading to interdisciplinary convergence or the emergence of new research directions or specialties. The last stage is Stage IV, whose particularity is to transform tacit knowledge into conditional knowledge and generalized knowledge, so as to maintain and transfer the scientific knowledge generated in the first three stages.

The structure of this paper is construed as follows. The second part describes the research methods employed, the scientometric approach and CiteSpace, as well as the data collection. In the third part, the bibliographic landscape of the core dataset is expounded from the macroscopic to the microscopic angle. The fourth part explores the developments and emerging trends in the field of ecotourism based on the expanded dataset and discusses the evolution phase of ecotourism. The final part is the conclusion of this study. Future research of ecotourism is prospected, and the limitations of this study are discussed.

Methods and data collection

Scientometric analyses and citespace.

Scientometrics is a branch of informatics that involves quantitative analysis of scientific literature in order to capture emerging trends and knowledge structures in a particular area of study (Chen et al., 2012 ). Science mapping tools generate interactive visual representations of complex structures by feeding a set of scientific literature through scientometrics and visual analysis tools to highlight potentially important patterns and trends for statistical analysis and visualization exploration (Chen, 2017 ). At present, scientometrics is widely used in many fields of research, and there are also many kinds of scientific mapping software widely used by researchers and analysts, such as VosViewer, SCI2, HistCite, SciMAT, Gephi, Pajek and CiteSpace (Chen, 2011 , 2017 ; Chen et al., 2012 ).

Among these tools, CiteSpace is known for its powerful literature co-citation analysis, and its algorithms and features are constantly being refined as it continues to evolve. CiteSpace is a citation visual analysis software developed under the background of scientometrics and data visualization to analyze the basics that are included in scientific analysis (Chen, 2017 ; Chen et al., 2012 ). It is specialized designed to satisfy the need for systematic review in rapidly changing complicated areas, particularly with the ability to identify and explain emerging trends and transition patterns (Chen et al., 2014a ). It supports multiple types of bibliometric research, such as collaborative network analysis, co-word analysis, author co-citation analysis, document co-citation analysis, and temporal and spatial visualization (Chen, 2017 ). Currently, CiteSpace has been extensively used in more than 60 fields, including computer science, information science, management and medicine (Abad-Segura et al., 2019 ; Chen, 2017 ).

In this paper, we utilize CiteSpace (5.8.R1) to analyze acquired bibliographies of ecotourism to study emerging trends and developments in this field. From macro to micro, from intuitive to complex, from whole to part and from general to special, the writing ideas are adopted. Figure  1 presented the specific research framework of this study.

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The research framework of this study

Data collection

Typical sources of scientific literature are Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar. Considering the quantity and quality of data, the Web of Science database was expected to provide the original data in this research. In order to comprehend the research status and development trends of ecotourism, this study systematically reviewed the ecotourism literature collected on the Web of Science Core Collection. The Web of Science Core Collection facilitates access to the world’s leading scholarly journals, books and proceedings of conferences in the sciences, social sciences, art, and humanities, as well as access to their entire citation network. It mainly includes Science Citation Index Expanded from 2003 to current and Social Sciences Citation Index from 2004 to present. Therefore, the data obtained in this study are from 2003 and were consulted on June 3, 2021.

In the process of data retrieval, it is frequently confronted with the choice between recall rate and precision rate. To address the problem of low recall rate in keyword or topic retrieval, Chen et al. ( 2014a , b ) expanded the retrieval results through ‘citation expansion’ and ‘comprehensive topic search’ strategies. However, when the recall rate is high, the accuracy rate will decrease correspondingly. In practical standpoint, instead of refining and cleaning up the original search results, a simpler and more efficient way is to cluster or skip these unrelated branches. Priority should be placed on ensuring recall rate, and data integrity is more important than data for accuracy. Therefore, two ecotourism documentation datasets, the core dataset and the expanded dataset, were obtained from the Web of Science by using comprehensive topic search and citation expansion method. The latter approach has been proved more robust than using keyword lists only to define fast-growing areas (Chen et al., 2014b ). A key bibliographic landscape is generated based on the core dataset, followed by more thorough research of the expanded dataset.

The core dataset

The core dataset was derived through comprehensive subject retrieval in Web of Science Core Collection. The literature type was selected as an article or review, and the language was English. The period spans 2003 to 2021. The topic search query is composed of three phrases of ecotourism: ‘ ecotour* ’ OR ‘ eco-tour* ’ OR ‘ ecological NEAR/5 tour* ’. The wildcard * is used to capture related variants of words, for example, ecotour, ecotourism, ecotourist and ecotourists. The related records that are requested include finding these terms in the title, abstract or keywords. The query yielded 2991 original unique records.

The expanded dataset

The expanded dataset includes the core dataset and additional records obtained by reference link association founded on the core dataset. The principle of citation expansion is that if an article cites at least one article in the core dataset, we can infer that it is related to the topic (Garfield, 1955 ). The expanded dataset is comprised of 27,172 unique records, including the core dataset and the articles that cited them. Both datasets were used for the following scientometrics analysis.

Bibliographic landscape based on the core dataset

The core dataset consists of a total of 2991 literature from 2003 to 2021. This study utilized the core dataset to conduct an overall understanding of the bibliographic landscape in the field of ecotourism.

Landscape views of core dataset

The distribution of the yearly publication of bibliographic records in the core and expanded datasets is presented in Fig.  2 . It can be observed that the overall number of ecotourism-related publications is on the rise, indicating that the scholarly community is increasingly interested in ecotourism. After 2018, the growth rate increased substantially. And in 2020, the number of publications in the expanded dataset is close to 5000, almost double that of 2017 and 5 times that of 2011. This displays the rapid development of research in the field of ecotourism in recent years, particularly after 2018, more and more researchers began to pay attention to this field, which also echoes the trend of global tourism development and environmental protection. With the increase in personal income, tourism has grown very rapidly, and with it, tourism revenue and tourist numbers, especially in developing states. For instance, the number of domestic tourists in China increased from 2.641 billion in 2011 to 6.06 billion in 2019, and tourism revenue increased from 1930.5 billion RMB in 2011 to 5725.1 billion RMB in 2019 (MCT, 2021 ). However, due to the lack of effective management and frequent human activities, the rapid development of tourism has led to various ecological and environmental problems, which require corresponding solutions (Shasha et al., 2020 ). This has played an active role in promoting the development of ecotourism and triggered a lot of related research. In addition, since 2005, the expanded dataset has contained numerous times as many references as the core dataset, demonstrating the importance of using citation expansion for literature retrieval in scientometric review studies.The data were consulted on June 3, 2021

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The distribution of bibliographic records in core and expanded dataset. Note The data were consulted on June 3, 2021

The dual-map overlay of scientific map literature as Fig.  3 shows, against the background of global scientific map from more than 10,000 journals covered by Web of Science, represents the distribution and connections on research bases and application fields across the entire dataset of the research topics (Chen & Leydesdorff, 2014 ). Colored lines are citation links, and numbered headings are cluster labels. On the left side is the journal distribution which cites literature, regarding the field application of ecotourism, mainly covers multiple disciplines such as 3. Ecology, Earth, Marine, 6. Psychology, Education, Health, 7. Veterinary, Animal Science and 10. Economics, Economic and Political. On the right side is the distribution of journals of cited literature, representing the research basis of ecotourism. As can be observed from the figure, ecotourism research is based on at least five disciplines on the right, including 2. Environmental, Toxicology, Nutrition, 7. Psychology, Education, Social, 8. Molecular, Biology, Genetics, 10. Plant, Ecology, Zoology and 12. Economics, Economic, Political. It can be viewed that the research field of ecotourism spans multiple disciplines and is a comprehensive and complex subject. The dual-map overlay provides a global visualization of literature growth of the discipline level.

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A dual-map overlay of ecotourism literature

The total number of papers issued by a country or an institution reflects its academic focus and overall strength, while centrality indicates the degree of academic cooperation with others and the influence of published papers. The top 15 countries and institutions for the number of ecotourism papers published from 2003 to 2021 are provided in Table ​ Table1. 1 . Similar to the study of Shasha et al. ( 2020 ), the ranking of the top six countries by the number of publications remains unchanged. As can be seen from the table, the USA ranks first in the world, far ahead in both the number of publications and the centrality. China ranks second in global ecotourism publications, followed by Australia, England, South Africa and Canada. While the latest data show that Taiwan (China), Turkey and South Korea appear on the list. Overall, the top 15 countries with the most publications cover five continents, containing a number of developed and developing, which shows that ecotourism research is receiving global attention. In terms of international academic cooperation and impact of ecotourism, Australia and England share second place, Italy and France share fourth place, followed by South Africa and Spain. China’s centrality is relatively low compared to the number of publications, ranking eighth. Academic cooperation between countries is of great significance. Usually, countries with high academic publishing level cooperate closely due to similar research interests. International academic cooperation has enhanced each other’s research capacity and promoted the development of ecotourism research. Therefore, although some countries have entered this list with the publication number, they should attach importance to increase academic cooperation with other countries and improving the international influence of published papers.

The top 15 most productive countries and institutions on ecotourism

The Chinese Academy of Sciences and its university are the most prolific when it draws to institutions’ performance. It is the most important and influential research institute in China, especially in the field of sustainable development science. Australia has four universities on the list, with Griffith University and James Cook University in second and third place. USA also includes four universities, with the University of Florida in fourth place. South Africa, a developing country, gets three universities, with the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg fifth and sixth, respectively. In comparison with previous studies (Shasha et al., 2020 ), Iran and Mexico each have one university in the ranking, replacing two universities in Greece, which means that the importance and influence of developing countries in the field of ecotourism is gradually rising. Based on the above results, it can be summarized that the USA, China, Australia and South Africa are relatively active countries in the field of ecotourism, and their development is also in a relatively leading position.

Most active topics

The foam tree map and the pie chart of the focal topics of ecotourism based on the core dataset generated by Carrot2 through the title of each article is illustrated in Fig.  4 . Developing and developed, case study, protected areas, sustainable tourism, tourism development and developing ecotourism are leading topics in the field of ecotourism research, as well as specific articles under the main topics. The lightweight view generated by Carrot2 provides a reference for the research, and then, co-word analysis is employed to more specifically reflect the topics in the research field.

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Foam tree map and pie chart of major topics on ecotourism

The topics covered by ecotourism could be exposed by the keywords of the articles in the core dataset. Figure  5 displays the keywords analysis results generated based on the core dataset. From the visualization results in the figure, it can infer that ecotourism, conservation, tourism, management, protected area, impact, biodiversity, sustainability, national park and community are the ten most concerned topics. Distinct colors set out at the time of co-citation keywords first appear, and yellow is generated earlier than red. In addition, Fig.  5 can also reflect the development and emerging topics in the research field, such as China, Mexico, South Africa and other hot countries for ecotourism research; ecosystem service, economic value, climate change, wildlife tourism, rural tourism, forest, marine protected area and other specific research directions; valuation, contingent valuation, choice experiment and other research methods; willingness to pay, preference, benefit, perception, attitude, satisfaction, experience, behavior, motivation, risk, recreation and other specific research issues.

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A landscape view of keywords based on the core dataset

Emerging trends and developments based on the expanded dataset

The expanded dataset, consisting of 27,172 records, is approximately nine times larger than the core dataset. This research applies the expanded dataset to profoundly explore the emerging trends and developments of ecotourism.

Keywords with citation bursts

Detection of citation bursts can indicate both the scientific community’s interest in published articles and burst keywords as an indicator of emerging tendencies. Figure  6 displays the top 30 keywords with the strongest citation bursts in the expanded dataset. Since 2003, a large number of keywords have exploded. Among them, the strongest bursts include ecotourism, bird, disturbance, reserve, Africa, challenge, sustainable development and strategy. Keywords with citation burst after 2017 are experience, challenge, sustainable development, willingness to pay, perspective, strategy, quality and satisfaction, which have continued to this day. The results indicate dynamic development and emerging trends in research hotspots in the field of ecotourism.

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Top 30 keywords with the strongest citation bursts

References with citation bursts

Figure  7 sets out the top 30 references in the expanded dataset with citation bursts. The articles with the fastest growing citations can also contribute to describe the dynamics of a field. References with high values in strength column are important milestones of ecotourism research. The two articles with strong citation bursts prior to 2010 focused on the human impact on the environment and animals. West et al. ( 2006 ) discussed the relationship between parks and human beings and the social impact of protected areas, and Köndgen et al. ( 2008 ) studied the decline of endangered great apes caused by a human pandemic virus. The paper with the strongest citation burst in the entire expanded dataset was released by Fairhead et al. ( 2012 ), which looked at ‘green grabbing,’ the appropriation of land and resources for environmental purposes. Milcu et al. ( 2013 ) conducted a semi-quantitative review of publications dealing with cultural ecosystem services with the second strongest citation burst, which concluded that the improvement of the evaluation method of cultural ecosystem service value, the research on the value of cultural ecosystem service under the background of ecosystem service and the clarification of policy significance were the new themes of cultural ecosystem service research. In addition, many articles with citation burst discussed the evaluation method of ecosystem services value (Costanza et al., 2014 ; Groot et al., 2010 ), the evaluation of cultural ecosystem service value (Plieninger et al., 2013 ) and its role in ecosystem service evaluation (Chan et al., 2012 ; Chan, Guerry, et al., 2012 ; Chan, Satterfield, et al., 2012 ; Chan, Satterfield, et al., 2012 ; Daniel et al., 2012 ). The most fresh literature with strong citation burst is the article of D’Amato et al. ( 2017 ) published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, which compared and analyzed sustainable development avenues such as green, circular and bio economy. In addition, it is worthwhile noting the use of R in ecotourism, with the persuasive citation burst continuing from 2012 to the present, as indicated by the orange arrow in Fig.  7 .

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Top 30 references with the strongest citation bursts

Landscape view of co-citation analysis

The landscape view of co-citation analysis of Fig.  8 is generated based on the expanded dataset. Using g -index ( k  = 25) selection criteria in the latest edition of CiteSpace, an annual citation network was constructed. The final merged network contained 3294 links, 2122 nodes and 262 co-citation clusters. The three largest linked components cover 1748 connected nodes, representing 82% of the entire network. The modularization degree of the synthetic network is 0.8485, which means that co-citation clustering can clearly define each sub-field of ecotourism. Another weighted mean silhouette value of the clustering validity evaluation is 0.9377, indicating that the clustering degree of the network is also very superior. The harmonic mean value amounts to 0.8909.

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A landscape view of the co-citation network based on the expanded dataset

In the co-citation network view, the location of clusters and the correlation between clusters can show the intellectual structure in the field of ecotourism, so that readers can obtain an overall understanding of this field. The network falls into 25 co-citation clusters. The tags for each cluster are generated founded on the title, keywords and abstract of the cited article. Color-coded areas represent the time of first appeared co-citation links, with gray indicating earlier and red later. The nodes in the figure with red tree rings are references to citation bursts.

Timeline view

In order to further understand the time horizon and study process of developing evolution on clusters, after the generation of co-citation cluster map, the Y -axis is cluster number and the year of citation publication is X -axis, so as to obtain the timeline view of the co-citation network, shown as Fig.  9 . Clusters are organized vertically from largest to smallest. The color curve represents co-citation link coupled with corresponding color year, with gray representing earlier and red representing newer. Larger nodes and nodes with red tree rings indicate high citation or citation burst. The three most cited references of the year demonstrate below each node, in vertical order from least to most.

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A timeline visualization of the largest clusters

The timeline view provides a reasonably instinctual and insightful reference to understand the evolutionary path of every subdomain. Figure  9 shows 19 clusters ranging from #0 to #18, with #0 being the largest cluster. As can be seen from the figure, the sustainability and activeness of each cluster are contrasting. For example, the largest cluster has been active since 2006, while the gray and purple clusters are no longer active.

Major clusters

Taking clustering as a unit and analyzing at the level of clustering, specifically selecting large or new type clustering, is the foothold of co-citation analysis, which can help to understand the principal and latest research fields related to ecotourism. Table ​ Table2 2 displays a summary of the foremost 19 clusters, the first nine of which are all over 100 in size. The silhouette score of all clusters is greater than 0.8, indicating that the homogeneity of each cluster is high. The mean year is the average of the publication dates of references in the cluster. By combining the results in Table ​ Table2, 2 , Figs.  8 and ​ and9, 9 , it can be observed that the five largest clusters are #0 cultural ecosystem services, #1 large carnivore, #2 human disturbance, #3 whale shark and #4 ecosystem service. A recent topic is cluster #16 COVID-19 pandemic. #11 Ecological footprint and #14 social media are two relatively youthful fields.

Summary of major clusters

* LLR refers to Log-Likelihood Ratio

The research status of a research field can be demonstrated by its knowledge base and research frontier. The knowledge base consists of a series of scholarly writing cited by the corresponding article, i.e., cited references, while the research frontier is the writing inspired by the knowledge base, i.e., citing articles. Distinct research frontiers may come from the same knowledge base. Consequently, each cluster is analyzed based on cited references and citing articles. The cited references and citing articles of the five largest clusters are shown in Online Appendix A. Fig a) lists the 15 top cited references with the highest Σ (sigma) value in the cluster, where Σ value indicates that the citation is optimal in terms of the comprehensive performance of structural centrality and citation bursts. Fig b) shows the major citing articles of cluster. The citation behavior of these articles determines the grouping of cited literature and thus forms the cluster. The coverage is the proportion of member citations cited by citing articles.

Phase evolution research

Through the above analysis of the core dataset and the expanded dataset of ecotourism, we can see the development and evolution of the research field of ecotourism. The research process of ecotourism has gone through several stages, and each stage has its strategic research issues. Research starts with thinking about the relationship between humans and nature, moves to study it as a whole ecosystem, and then explores sustainable development. Hence, the evolution of ecotourism can be roughly parted into three phases.

Phase I: Human disturbance research stage (2003–2010)

This phase of research concentrates on the influence of human activities such as ecotourism on the environment and animals. Representative keywords of this period include ecotourism, human disturbance, response, coral reef, bird, disturbance, recreation, reserve, park, South Africa and people. Representative articles are those published by West et al. ( 2006 ) and Köndgen et al. ( 2008 ) of human impact on the environment and animals. The representative clustering is #2 human disturbance, which is the third largest one, consisting of 130 cited references from 1998 to 2012 with the average year of 2004. This cluster has citation bursts between 2002 and 2010 and has been inactive since then. As showed in Fig S3 a) and b), the research base and frontier are mainly around the impact of human disturbances such as ecotourism on biology and the environment (McClung et al., 2004 ). And as showed in Fig.  8 and Fig.  9 , clusters closely related to #2 belong to this phase and are also no longer active, such as #5 off-road vehicle, #6 protected area, #10 poverty reduction and #12 sustainable lifestyle.

Phase II: Ecosystem services research stage (2011–2015)

In this stage, the content of ecotourism research is diversified and exploded. The research is not confined to the relationship between humans and nature, but begins to investigate it as an entire ecosystem. In addition, some specific or extended areas began to receive attention. Typical keywords are abundance, resource, Africa, risk, predation, consequence and science. The most illustrative papers in this stage are Fairhead et al. ( 2012 )’s discussion on green grabbing and Milcu et al. ( 2013 )’s review on cultural ecosystem services. Other representative papers in this period focused on the evaluation methods of ecosystem service value and the role of cultural ecosystem service in the evaluation of ecosystem service value. Most of the larger clusters in the survey erupted at this stage, including #0 cultural ecosystem services, #1 large carnivore, #3 whale shark, #4 ecosystem services. Some related clusters also belong to this stage, such as #7 neoliberal conservation, #8 responsible behavior, #9 tourism development, #13 mangrove forest, #15 volunteer tourism, #17 circular economy and #18 telecoupling framework.

Cluster #0 cultural ecosystem services are the largest cluster in ecotourism research field, containing 157 cited references from 2006 to 2019, with the mean year being 2012. It commenced to have the citation burst in 2009, with high cited continuing until 2019. Cultural ecosystem services are an essential component of ecosystem services, including spiritual, entertainment and cultural benefits. Thus, in Fig.  8 , the overlap with #4 ecosystem services can obviously be seen. In Cluster #0, many highly cited references have discussed the trade-offs between natural and cultural ecosystem services in ecosystem services (Nelson et al., 2009 ; Raudsepp-Hearne et al., 2010 ) and the important role of cultural ecosystem services in the evaluation of ecosystem services value (Burkhard et al., 2012 ; Chan, Guerry, et al., 2012 ; Chan, Satterfield, et al., 2012 ; Fisher et al., 2009 ; Groot et al., 2010 ). As non-market value, how to evaluate and quantify cultural ecosystem services is also an important issue (Hernández-Morcillo et al., 2012 ; Milcu et al., 2013 ; Plieninger et al., 2013 ). Besides, the exploration of the relationship among biodiversity, human beings and ecosystem services is also the focus of this cluster research (Bennett et al., 2015 ; Cardinale et al., 2012 ; Díaz et al., 2015 ; Mace et al., 2012 ). The citing articles of #0 indicate the continued exploration of the connotation of cultural ecosystem services and their value evaluation methods (Dickinson & Hobbs, 2017 ). It is noteworthy that some articles have introduced spatial geographic models (Havinga et al., 2020 ; Hirons et al., 2016 ) and social media methods (Calcagni et al., 2019 ) as novel methods to examine cultural ecosystem services. In addition, the link and overlap between #0 cultural ecosystem service and #17 circular economy cannot be overlooked.

Ecosystem services relate to all the benefits that humans receive from ecosystems, including supply services, regulatory services, cultural services and support services. Research on cultural ecosystem services is based on the research of ecosystem services. It can be viewed in Fig.  9 that the research and citation burst in #4 was all slightly earlier than #0. Cluster #4 includes 118 references from 2005 to 2019, with an average year of 2011. In its research and development, how to integrate ecosystem services into the market and the payment scheme to protect the natural environment is a significant research topic (Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2010 ). In Cluster #4, the most influential literature provides an overview of the payment of ecosystem services (PES) from theory to practice by Engel et al. ( 2008 ). Many highly cited references have discussed PES (Kosoy & Corbera, 2010 ; Muradian et al., 2010 ), including the effectiveness of evaluation (Naeem et al., 2015 ), social equity matters (Pascual et al., 2014 ), the suitability and challenge (Muradian et al., 2013 ), and how to contribute to saving nature (Redford & Adams, 2009 ). The cluster also includes studies on impact assessment of protected areas (Oldekop et al., 2016 ), protected areas and poverty (Brockington & Wilkie, 2015 ; Ferraro & Hanauer, 2014 ), public perceptions (Bennett, 2016 ; Bennett & Dearden, 2014 ) and forest ecosystem services (Hansen et al., 2013 ). The foremost citing articles confirm the dominant theme of ecosystem services, especially the in-depth study and discussion of PES (Muniz & Cruz, 2015 ). In addition, #4 is highly correlated with #7 neoliberal protection, and Fairhead et al. ( 2012 ), a representative article of this stage, belongs to this cluster.

As the second largest cluster, Cluster #1 contains 131 references from 2008 to 2019, with the median year of 2014. As Fig S2 a) shows, the highly cited literature has mainly studied the status and protection of large carnivores (Mace, 2014 ; Ripple et al., 2014 ), including the situation of reduction (Craigie et al., 2010 ), downgrade (Estes et al., 2011 ) and even extinction (Dirzo et al., 2014 ; Pimm et al., 2014 ), and the reasons for such results, such as tourist visits (Balmford et al., 2015 ; Geffroy et al., 2015 ) and the increase in population at the edge of the protected areas (Wittemyer et al., 2008 ). The conservation effects of protected areas on wildlife biodiversity (Watson et al., 2014 ) and the implications of tourist preference heterogeneity for conservation and management (Minin et al., 2013 ) have also received attention. It is worth noting that the high citation rate of a paper using R to estimate the linear mixed-effects model (Bates et al., 2015 ) and the use of R in this cluster. The relationship between biodiversity and ecotourism is highlighted by the representative citing articles in research frontier of this cluster (Chung et al., 2018 ).

Cluster #3 refers to marine predator, and as shown in Fig.  8 , which has a strong correlation with #1. A total of 125 references were cited from 2002 to 2018, with an average year of 2011. References with high citation in #3 mainly studied the extinction and protection of marine life such as sharks (Dulvy et al., 2014 ), as well as the economic value and ecological impact of shark ecotourism (Clua et al., 2010 ; Gallagher & Hammerschlag, 2011 ; Gallagher et al., 2015 ). The paper published by Gallagher et al. ( 2015 ) is both the highly cited reference and main citing article, mainly focusing on the impact of shark ecotourism. It is also noteworthy that #6 protected area, #13 mangrove forest and #29 Mediterranean areas are highly correlated with these two clusters (Fig.  8 ).

Moreover, some clusters are not highly correlated with other clusters, but cannot be neglected at this stage of research. Cluster #8 responsible behavior includes 107 citations with the average year 2013, and mainly studied environmentally responsible behaviors in ecotourism (Chiu et al., 2014 ). Cluster #9 tourism development contains 97 cited references with mean year of 2015, focusing on the impact of such factors as residents’ perception on tourism development (Sharpley, 2014 ). Cluster #15 volunteer tourism consists of 52 citations, with an average year of 2011, which mainly considers the role of volunteer tourism in tourism development and sustainable tourism (Wearing & McGehee, 2013 ). Cluster #18 telecoupling framework has 26 cited references with the mean year being 2015, and the application of the new integrated framework of telecoupling 1 in ecotourism can be seen (Liu et al., 2015 ).

At this stage, it can be seen that the research field of ecotourism begins to develop in the direction of diversification, including the value evaluation and related research of ecosystem services and cultural ecosystem services, as well as the exploration of wild animals and plants, marine animals and plants and biodiversity. Neoliberal conservation, tourists’ responsible behavior, tourism development, volunteer tourism and circular economy are all explored. Some new research methods have also brought fresh air to this field, such as the introduction of spatial geographic models and social media methods, the discussion of economic value evaluation methods, the widespread use of R and the exploration of telecoupling framework. Therefore, from this stage, research in the field of ecotourism has entered the second stage of scientific discipline development (Shneider, 2009 ), featured by the use and evolution of research tools that can be used to investigate potential phenomena.

Phase III: Sustainable development research stage (2016 to present)

This stage of research continues to explore a series of topics of the preceding phase and further extends the research field on this basis. The keywords at this stage are politics, marine protected area and valuation. Some other keywords are still very active today, such as experience, challenge, sustainable development, willingness to pay, perspective, strategy, quality and satisfaction. The representative article is about sustainable development published by D'Amato et al. ( 2017 ), as shown in Fig.  8 belonging to #17 circular economy. The emerging clusters in this period are #11 ecological footprint, #14 social media and #16 COVID-19 pandemic. Cluster #11 contains 70 cited references from 2013 to 2020 with the mean year 2017. This clustering study mainly used the ecological footprint as an environmental indicator and socioeconomic indicators such as tourism to investigate the hypothesis of environmental Kuznets curve (Ozturk et al., 2016 ; Ulucak & Bilgili, 2018 ). Cluster #14 includes 52 cited references, with an average year of 2016. It can be seen that the introduction of social media data has added new color to research in the field of ecotourism, such as using social media data to quantify landscape value (Zanten et al., 2016 ) and to understand tourists’ preferences for the experience of protected areas (Hausmann et al., 2018 ), as well as from a spatial perspective using social media geo-tagged photos as indicators for evaluating cultural ecosystem services (Richards & Friess, 2015 ). As the latest and most concerned topic, cluster #16 contains 48 cited references, with mean year of 2018. This cluster mainly cites research on over-tourism (Seraphin et al., 2018 ) and sustainable tourism (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2018 ) and explores the impact of pandemics such as COVID-19 on global tourism (Gössling et al., 2021 ).

These emerging clusters at this phase bring fresh thinking to the research of ecotourism. First of all, the analysis of ecological footprint provides a tool for measuring the degree of sustainability and helps to monitor the effectiveness of sustainable programs (Kharrazi et al., 2014 ). Research and exploration of ecological footprint in ecotourism expresses the idea of sustainable development and puts forward reasonable planning and suggestions by comparing the demand of ecological footprint with the carrying capacity of natural ecosystem. Secondly, the use of social media data brings a new perspective of data acquisition to ecotourism research. Such large-scale data acquisition can make up for the limitations of sample size and data sampling bias faced by survey data users and provide a new way to understand and explore tourist behavior and market (Li et al., 2018 ). Finally, the sudden impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and its long-term sustainability has dealt a huge blow to the tourism industry. COVID-19 has highlighted the great need and value of tourism, while fundamentally changing the way destinations, business and visitors plan, manage and experience tourism (CREST, 2020 ). However, the stagnation of tourism caused by the pandemic is not enough to meet the challenges posed by the environment and the climate crisis. Therefore, how to sustain the development of tourism in this context to meet the challenges of the environment and climate change remains an important issue in the coming period of time. These emerging clusters are pushing the boundaries of ecotourism research and the exploration of sustainable development in terms of research methods, data collection and emerging topics.

Despite the fact that the research topics in this stage are richer and more diversified, the core goal of research is still committed to the sustainable development of ecotourism. The introduction of new technologies and the productive results have led to a much-improved understanding of research issues. All this commemorates the entrance of research into the third stage of the development of scientific disciplines (Shneider, 2009 ). In addition to continuing the current research topics, the future development of the field of ecotourism will continue to focus on the goal of sustainable development and will be more diversified and interdisciplinary.

This paper uses scientometrics to make a comprehensive visual domain analysis of ecotourism. The aim is to take advantage of this method to conduct an in-depth systematic review of research and development in the field of ecotourism. We have enriched the process of systematic reviews of knowledge domains with features from the latest CiteSpace software. Compared with previous studies, this study not only updated the database, but also extended the dataset with citation expansion, so as to more comprehensively identify the rapidly developing research field. The research not only identifies the main clusters and their advance in ecotourism research based on high impact citations and research frontiers formed by citations, but also presents readers with new insights through intuitive visual images. Through this study, readers can swiftly understand the progress of ecotourism, and on the basis of this study, they can use this method to conduct in-depth analysis of the field they are interested in.

Our research shows that ecotourism has developed rapidly in recent years, with the number of published articles increasing year by year, and this trend has become more pronounced after 2018. The research field of ecotourism spans many disciplines and is a comprehensive interdisciplinary subject. Ecotourism also attracts the attention of numerous developed and developing countries and institutions. The USA, China, Australia and South Africa are in a relatively leading position in the research and development of ecotourism. Foam tree map and pie chart of major topics, and the landscape view of keywords provide the hotspot issues of the research field. The development trend of ecotourism is preliminarily understood by detecting the citation bursts of the keywords and published articles. Co-citation analysis generates the main clusters of ecotourism research, and the timeline visualization of these clusters provides a clearer view for understanding the development dynamics of the research field. Building on all the above results, the research and development of ecotourism can be roughly divided into three stages: human disturbance, ecosystem services and sustainable development. Through the study of keywords, representative literature and main clusters in each stage, the development characteristics and context of each stage are clarified. From the current research results, we can catch sight that the application of methods and software in ecotourism research and the development of cross-field. Supported by the Shneider’s four-stage theory of scientific discipline (Shneider, 2009 ), it can be thought that ecotourism is in the third stage. Research tools and methods have become more potent and convenient, and research perspectives have become more diverse.

Based on the overall situation, research hotspots and development tendency of ecotourism research, it can be seen that the sustainable development of ecotourism is the core issue of current ecotourism research and also an important goal for future development. In the context of the current pandemic, the tourism industry is in crisis, but crisis often breeds innovation, and we must take time to reconsider the way forward. As we look forward to the future of tourism, we must adopt the rigor and dedication required to adapt to the pandemic, adhering to the principles of sustainable development while emphasizing economic reliability, environmental suitability and cultural acceptance. Post-COVID, the competitive landscape of travel and tourism will change profoundly, with preventive and effective risk management, adaptation and resilience, and decarbonization laying the foundation for future competitiveness and relevance (CREST, 2020 ).

In addition, as can be seen from the research and development of ecotourism, the exploration of sustainable development increasingly needs to absorb research methods from diverse fields to guide the formulation of policy. First of all, how to evaluate and quantify ecotourism reasonably and scientifically is an essential problem to be solved in the development of ecotourism. Some scholars choose contingent valuation method (CVM) and choice experiment (CE) in environmental economics to evaluate the economic value of ecotourism, especially non-market value. In addition, the introduction of spatial econometrics and the use of geographic information system (GIS) provide spatial scale analysis methods and results presentation for the sustainable development of ecotourism. The use of social media data implies the application of big data technology in the field of ecotourism, where machine learning methods such as artificial neural networks (ANN) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) are increasingly being applied (Talebi et al., 2021 ). The measurement of ecological footprint and the use of telecoupling framework provide a reliable way to measure sustainable development and the interaction between multiple systems. These approaches all have expanded the methodological boundaries of ecotourism research. It is worth noting that R, as an open source and powerful software, is favored by scholars in the field of ecotourism. This programming language for statistical computation is now widely used in statistical analysis, data mining, data processing and mapping of ecotourism research.

The scientometrics method used in this study is mainly guided by the citation model in the literature retrieval dataset. The range of data retrieval exercises restraint by the source of retrieval and the query method utilized. While current methods can meet the requirements, iterative query optimization can also serve to advance in the quality of the data. To achieve higher data accuracy, the concept tree function in the new version of CiteSpace can also serve to clarify the research content of each clustering (Chen, 2017 ). In addition, the structural variation analysis in the new edition is also an interesting study, which can show the citation footprints of typical high-yielding authors and judge the influence of the author on the variability of network structure through the analysis of the citation footprints (Chen, 2017 ).

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


This study is funded by Education Department of Heilongjiang Province (1451MSYYB013) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.71874026 and No.71171044).

Authors’ contributions

In this study, LX proposed the research topic, designed the research methodology and framework, and made the data analysis. She was the major contributor in writing the manuscript. CA contributed to the design of the whole paper, including the research topic and methodology, and also participated in the writing and revision of the manuscript. BL and ZC were involved in data collection and analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Availability of data and material


The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interest or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Not applicable.

Liu, J., Hull, V., Batistella, M., DeFries, R., Dietz, T., Fu, F.,... Zhu, C. (2013). Framing Sustainability in a Telecoupled World. Ecology and Society , 18 (2), 26. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-05873-180226

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Contributor Information

Lishan Xu, Email: nc.ude.unjdm@0104102 .

Changlin Ao, Email: nc.ude.uaen@nilgnahcoa .

Baoqi Liu, Email: moc.qq@457115825 .

Zhenyu Cai, Email: moc.qq@697833194 .

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Sustainable development

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Sustainable development

"Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities"

Sustainable tourism development guidelines and management practices are applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tourism segments. Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability.

Thus, sustainable tourism should:

  • Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.

Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.




UNWTO strives to promote tourism development that supports, in equal measure, the conservation of biodiversity, the social welfare and the economic security of the host countries and communities.

Climate Action


Tourism is both highly vulnerable to climate change while at the same time contributing to it. Threats for the sector are diverse, including direct and indirect impacts such as more extreme weather events, increasing insurance costs and safety concerns, water shortages,  biodiversity loss and damage to assets and attractions at destinations, among others.

Global Tourism Plastics Initiative

Global Tourism Plastics Initiative

The problem of plastic pollution in tourism is too big for any single organisation to fix on its own. To match the scale of the problem, changes need to take place across the whole tourism value chain.

Hotel Energy Solutions (HES)

Hotel Energy Solutions (HES)

Hotel Energy Solutions (HES) is a UNWTO -initiated project in collaboration with a team of United Nations and EU leading agencies in Tourism and Energy . 

Observatories (INSTO)

Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO)

The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) is a network of tourism observatories monitoring the economic, environmental and social impact of tourism at the destination level. 

One Planet

When responsibly planned and managed, tourism has demonstrated its capacity to support job creation, promote inclusive social integration, protect natural and cultural heritage, conserve biodiversity, generate sustainable livelihoods and improve human wellbeing.  As the sector is experiencing tremendous growth, collective efforts to ensure its long-term sustainability are essential.

Resource Efficiency in Tourism

 Resource Efficiency in Tourism

The report aims to inspire stakeholders and encourage them to advance the implementation of the SDGs through sustainable tourism.

Small Islands Developing States (SIDS)

Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Small Island Developing States face numerous challenges. For a significant number, their remoteness affects their ability to be part of the global supply chain, increases import costs - especially for energy - and limits their competitiveness in the tourist industry. Many are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change - from devastating storms to the threat of sea level rise.

Travel facilitation

Travel facilitation

Travel facilitation of tourist travel is closely interlinked with tourism development and can be a tool to foster increased demand and generate economic development, job creation and international understanding.

UNGA Sustainable Tourism Resolutions

UNGA Sustainable Tourism Resolutions

The World Tourism Organization is regularly preparing reports for the General Assembly of the United Nations providing updates on sustainable tourism policies both from UNWTO member States and States Members of the United Nations, as well as relevant agencies and programmes of the United Nations system.

Top Ecotourism Trends In 2020 And The Future Of Tourism

When it comes to ecological trends and innovations, the tourism industry also evolves. In a rapidly changing landscape, new trends are constantly emerging and making progress. Demographic change, technological development, and changes in social customs are only a few factors that contribute to crucial new tourism trends.

The meaning of Ecotourism

Ecotourism is a form of tourism directed to undisturbed natural areas, in our age, it's as a popular alternative to commercial mass tourism. This form of tourism contains a variety of ethical travel practices, so it can get broadly described as a choice of travel to demonstrate respect to nature and local communities.

Moreover, sustainable tourism educates tourists about providing environmental protection. As a consequence, it directly promotes economic development and political empowerment of local communities. At the same time, it enlightens people about cultural diversity and environmentally friendly practices.

In the 1980s, ecologists referred to Ecotourism as a crucial task for future generations. The purpose at the time was to discover areas that remain relatively untouched by human intervention.

Due to the rampant modernisation of the world, natural resources run out whenever humans introduce advanced technologies. Apart from the fact that such advances are convenient innovations, it's worthy to note that, generally, there's a risk factor associated with them.

You probably heard it before: We need clean air and a green environment to survive in the next generation. Tourism takes an important role here.

Ecotourism is practised all over the world today. When you travel in natural areas where the environment is protected and also ensure the well being of local people through education and awareness, this is called Ecotourism.

Why it’s important

As a tour operator, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of the needs of travellers. People want to explore nothing but a stunning, beautifully preserved destination with fresh, natural life.

Even in the most remote places on the planet, there are ecotourism destinations. At these places, locals survive on their own and have little to no industrial income for further development as individuals or as a society.

As foreigners, people need to understand and respect local laws and avoid pollution by any means. The result will be a greater enjoyment of the natural environment they travel to, at the same time, everyone can contribute to the protection and preservation of the region.

For this reason, there’s an active necessity to promote and implement awareness campaigns in all regions of the world. Tourists and tour operators must be aware of the consequences of tourism activities as both persons can contribute to wasting some of these places in the world.

ecological tourism trends

The Great Barrier Reef is slowly dying each year as a consequence of climate change.

Moving on to better news, in recent years a lot of international programs are being put together to help further promote Ecotourism.

For instance, there are Ecotourism, and Sustainable Tourism Conferences that take place around the world every year. These gather major tourist groups to support sustainability in the tourism industry and to protect popular natural destinations at risk.

Ecotourism trends in 2020

Several surveys can back-up the fact that people prefer eco-friendly products ; in fact, 1 in 3 consumers prefer eco-friendly options. It might be the time to give your business a fresh start, below you will find the main trends in Ecotourism for 2020:

  • Empowerment of women in developing countries

Different initiatives have been created to deliver a strong message to empower females; there's the Me Too Movement , for example. The tourism industry is no exception to this.

Tourists are thinking of different ways to improve and support the local women they meet during their visit. Societies are searching for ways to promote gender equality and help women reach their full economic potential.

  • Sustainable volunteering

Choosing to volunteer as a trip can be a deeply impactful experience, in present times, there’s a big number of volunteers program that reflect evolving interests and needs. By volunteering abroad in a sustainable way, participants ensure that they are supporting an ethical program.

There are travellers interested in providing local people access to their professional skills. For example, certain developing countries need qualified doctors, nurses, and teachers, also, physical skills like helping to build and equip the communities with infrastructure is an opportunity.

  • Nature reserves and Safaris

Recently, different lodges and camps are opening in Africa, which is a significant step for eco-travel. This idea makes travelling in a more conscious way more accessible than ever.

Game reserves primarily allow wildlife animals to live safely, and they also take a huge role in the development of communities in natural-diverse areas. Now, local communities get benefits from Ecotourism as they are contributing to protecting wildlife and making sure that their impact on the environment is favourable.

  • Avoiding crowded places

It isn't too delightful to visit a monument crowded with people, but that isn't the only reason we should care about over-tourism. More often, travellers are taking more responsibility and avoiding places struggling with over-tourism.

Contrarily, less crowded places are at the top of the list. Additionally, popular tourist destinations now introduce strict regulation rules to reduce the influx of visitors.

  • Activities to counteract the environmental impact

The plastic waste crisis has been quite a debate for the past few years. A 2017 study found that 6.3 billion tons of the world's 8.3 billion tons were waste. Don't stop at encouraging travellers to lower their impact on the countries and communities they visit, go beyond, ask people to get involved!

Embracing sustainable travel involves actively reducing plastic footprint. Travelling itself is an eye-opening activity; it could also allow people to notice the seriousness of some issues, for example, the harsh consequences of plastic pollution.

What to expect in the future

Ecotourism has created an influential market base that has attracted thousands of tourists that became interested in the movement. As of now, the management of frequently visited landscapes and regions is one of the main challenges associated with the promotion of green tourism.

It's crucial to promote smart growth, as it is on the low in certain areas. There's landscape flooded with hotels, restaurants, and travel services on the rise. As a consequence of unethical tourism, lots of local workers may live without basic sanitation, clean water, health services, proper education, and more.

To create well-planned destinations in the future, governments should also take responsibility. Without local planning, Ecotourism could be an additional problem for the landscape. Local communities need to realise that they need to protect their resources for the future, preserving the environment and assuring the future of tourism is friendly to our Earth.

The Latest Tourist Marketing Trends to Inspire you

The Latest Tourist Marketing Trends to Inspire you

Five simple habits that make every hotel guest feel special.

Five Simple Habits That Make Every Hotel Guest Feel Special


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  • Published: 31 May 2023

Eco-tourism, climate change, and environmental policies: empirical evidence from developing economies

  • Yunfeng Shang 1 ,
  • Chunyu Bi 2 ,
  • Xinyu Wei 2 ,
  • Dayang Jiang 2 ,
  • Farhad Taghizadeh-Hesary   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5446-7093 3 , 4 &
  • Ehsan Rasoulinezhad   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7726-1757 5  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  10 , Article number:  275 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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  • Environmental studies

Developing ecotourism services is a suitable solution to help developing countries improve the status of sustainable development indicators and protect their environment. The primary purpose of this paper is to find out the effects of green governance variables and carbon dioxide emissions on ecotourism for 40 developing economies from 2010 to 2021. The results confirmed a uni-directional causal relationship between the green governance indicator and the inflation rate of the ecotourism indicator. In addition, with a 1% improvement in the green governance index of developing countries, the ecotourism of these countries will increase by 0.43%. In comparison, with a 1% increase in the globalization index of these countries, ecotourism will increase by 0.32%. Moreover, ecotourism in developing countries is more sensitive to macroeconomic variables changes than in developed economies. Geopolitical risk is an influential factor in the developing process of ecotourism. The practical policies recommended by this research are developing the green financing market, establishing virtual tourism, granting green loans to small and medium enterprises, and government incentives to motivate active businesses.


The challenge of climate change has become a primary threat to living on the Earth in the last centuries (Rasoulinzhad and Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2022 ). Many meetings of the countries at the regional and international level are held on the topics of environment and climate change. Regardless of environmental issues, population growth, and the lack of control of greenhouse gas emissions, industrialization has been the most crucial cause of the climate change crisis. Chao and Feng ( 2018 ) address human activity as the leading cause of climate change and express that this challenge is a potential threat to living on Earth. Woodward ( 2019 ) argued that climate change threats include the rise in global temperature, the melting of polar ice caps, and unprecedented disease outbreaks. Therefore, urgent policies and solutions are essential to control and lower the risk of global change. One of the signs of climate change is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface. Figure 1 shows the temperature data from 1910 to 2021 for the four continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America.

figure 1

Source: Authors from NOAA ( https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/climate-at-a-glance/global/time-series ).

The data in Fig. 1 shows that the air temperature has increased significantly over the past century, which has been more prominent in Asia and Europe. In 2021, we saw a decrease in temperature changes due to the spread of the Corona disease and a decrease in the rate of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the role of the Asian continent in increasing the global temperature has been more than other continents due to its large population and excessive consumption of fossil fuels.

During the past decades, the world’s countries have tried to formulate and implement various environmental policies collectively in the form of agreements or separately to fight environmental threats. Regarding international agreements, such things as the Paris Agreement of 2015, the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, the Montreal Protocol of 1987, and the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985 can be addressed whose primary purpose is to integrate the goals and motivation of the international community to the world’s environmental threats. However, a group of earlier studies, such as Zheng et al. ( 2017 ), Takashima ( 2018 ), and Roelfsema et al. ( 2022 ), emphasized the inefficiency of these global agreements, especially after the left the USA from the Paris Agreement on 1 June 2017. The most important cause of this inefficiency has been the need for more motivation of countries to fulfill their international obligations towards environmental issues. However, many governments consider the threat of climate change only within their geographical boundaries and have tried to formulate and implement green policies to advance their environmental protection goals. These policies include green financial policies (green taxes, green subsidies), monetary policies (such as green loans and green financing), and cultural and social policies in line with sustainable development. The ultimate goal of these green policies is a green economy, an environmentally friendly economy, a zero carbon economy, or a sustainable economy. Lee et al. ( 2022 ) define the green economy as a broad concept comprising green industry, agriculture, and services. Centobelli et al. ( 2022 ) express that environmental sustainability should be more attention in the service sector owing to its penetration into social life and interactions.

Tourism and travel-related services are among countries’ main parts of the service sector. By creating the flow of tourists, tourism services can lead to capital transfer, job creation, cultural exchange (globalization), and increasing welfare in the country hosting the tours. According to the Yearbook of Tourism Statistics published by the World Tourism Organization, international tourism has increased from 522.2 billion US dollars in 1995 to nearly 1.86 trillion US dollars in 2019. This increase shows the importance of tourism services in generating income for countries, especially in the era of Corona and post-corona. Casado-Aranda et al. ( 2021 ) express that tourism services can be a central driver of economic growth recovery in post COVID era. Jeyacheya and Hampton ( 2022 ) argue that tourism can make high incomes for host countries leading to job creation and economic flourishing in destination cities for tourists.

An important issue mentioned in the corona era and relies on the post-corona era is the revitalizing of green economic growth. An important issue mentioned in the corona era and relying on the post-corona era is the revitalizing green economic growth (Bai et al., 2022 ; Werikhe, 2022 ), an opportunity that countries should pay more attention to in order to rebuild their economic activities. In other words, countries should plan their return to economic prosperity with environmental issues in mind. To this end, the issue of tourism finds a branch called Ecotourism or sustainable tourism which has environmental concerns and tries to help countries to improve environmental protection policies. Ecotourism is an approach based on environmental criteria, which is opposed to over-tourism (a type of tourism that disrupts the protection of the environment and destroys natural resources). The International Ecotourism Society defines Ecotourism as an efficient way to conserve the environment and improve local people’s well-being. It can be said that Ecotourism, along with various economic advantages (income generation, job creation, globalization, poverty alleviation), will bring environmental protection to the world’s countries, achieving the goals of green economic growth recovery and sustainable development. Xu et al. ( 2022 ) consider Ecotourism as one of the essential components of achieving sustainable development in the post-corona era.

Ecotourism in developing countries has more priorities compared to developed economies. Firstly, developing countries are often countries with financial problems of the government, and the governments in these countries need more capital to advance sustainable development goals. Therefore, developing ecotourism services can be a suitable solution to help these countries improve the status of sustainable development indicators and protect their environment. Second, due to the spread of the Corona disease, developing countries have experienced numerous bankruptcy in the tourism services sector. Therefore, promoting ecotourism in these countries is of great importance in the post-corona era. Third, developing countries have a high share in the emission of greenhouse gases in the world due to their high dependence on fossil fuels and the lack of advanced green technologies. Fourth, due to bureaucratic processes, high cost, and lack of market transparency, greenwashing may happen in developing economies’ ecotourism industry, meaning that a company serving ecotourism services makes its activities seem more sustainable and ethical than they are. The term “greenwashing” can harshly impact the future development path of the ecotourism industry in developing economies. According to the reasons mentioned above, developing ecotourism in developing countries can be an essential factor in controlling and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in these countries.

This paper tries to contribute to the existing literature from the following aspects:

Calculating the ecotourism index for selected countries based on the criteria for measuring sustainable tourism stated by the World Tourism Organization in the United Nations. Considering that there is no specific index for ecotourism, the calculation of ecotourism in this article will be innovative.

Measuring the green governance index as a proxy for environmental policies for selected countries based on the Environment Social and Governance (ESG) data.

Selecting a sample of 40 developing countries from different geographical regions to calculate the interconnections between ecotourism, green governance, and climate change

Making a further discussion to address the role of uncertainty and the developing level of countries in the relationship between ecotourism and explanatory variables.

The main results confirm the existence of a uni-directional causal relationship running from the green governance indicator and inflation rate to the ecotourism indicator. In addition, with a 1% improvement in the green governance index of developing countries, the ecotourism of these countries will increase by 0.43%. A 1% increase in the globalization index of these countries accelerates ecotourism by 0.32%.

Moreover, ecotourism in developing countries is more sensitive to macroeconomic variables changes than in developed economies. Geopolitical risk is an influential factor in the developing process of ecotourism. The practical policies recommended by this research are developing the green financing market, establishing virtual tourism, granting green loans to small and medium enterprises, and government incentives to motivate active businesses.

The paper in continue is organized as follows: section “Literature review” provides a short literature review to determine the gaps this research seeks to fill. Section “Data and model specification” argues data and model specification. The following section represents empirical results. Section “Discussion” expresses discussion, whereas the last section provides conclusions, policy implications, research limitations, and recommendations to research further.

Literature review

This part of the article analyzes and classifies the previous literature on ecotourism and sustainable development in a rational and structured way. The importance of tourism in economic growth and development has been discussed in previous studies. However, the study of the effect of tourism on climate change has received little attention. Especially the relationship between sustainable tourism, climate change, and environmental policies is a problem that has yet to receive the attention of academic experts.

A group of previous studies has focused on the place of tourism in economic development and growth. Holzner ( 2011 ) focused on the consequences of tourism development on the economic performance of 134 countries from 1970 to 2007. They found out that excessive dependence on tourism income leads to Dutch disease in the economy, and other economic sectors need to develop to the extent of the tourism sector. In another study, Sokhanvar et al. ( 2018 ) investigated the causal link between tourism and economic growth in emerging economies from 1995 to 2014. The main results confirmed that the linkage is country-dependent. Brida et al. ( 2020 ) studied 80 economies from 1995 to 2016 to determine how tourism and economic development are related. The paper’s conclusions highlighted tourism’s-positive role in economic activities.

Another group of previous studies has linked tourism to sustainability targets. Sorensen and Grindsted ( 2021 ) expressed that nature tourism development has a positive and direct impact on achieving sustainable development goals of countries. In a new study, Li et al. ( 2022 ) studied the impacts of tourism development on life quality (as one of the sustainable development goals defined by the UN in 2015) in the case of Japan. They found that tourism development positively impacts the quality of life of age groups in the country. Ahmad et al. ( 2022 ) explored the role of tourism in the sustainability of G7 economies from 2000–2019. The primary findings revealed the positive impact of tourism arrivals on sustainable economic development. Zekan et al. ( 2022 ) investigated the impact of tourism on regional sustainability in Europe. They concluded that tourism development increases transport, leading to increased carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, tourism development causes environmental pollution.

Tourism that can pay attention to environmental issues is called “ecotourism.” Many new studies have studied different dimensions of ecotourism. Lu et al. ( 2021 ) expanded the concept of the ecotourism industry. The significant results expressed that smart tourist cities are essential for efficient ecotourism in countries. Thompson ( 2022 ) expressed the characteristics of ecotourism development through survey methodology. The results confirmed the importance of transparent regulations, government support, and social intention to promote ecotourism. In another study, Heshmati et al. ( 2022 ) employed the SWOT analysis method to explore the critical success factors of ecotourism development in Iran. They found that legal documentation and private participation are major influential factors in promoting ecotourism in Iran. In line with the previous research, Hosseini et al. ( 2021 ) tried to explore the influential factors in promoting ecotourism in Iran by employing a SWOT analysis. They depicted that attracting investors is essential to enhance ecotourism projects in Iran. Hasana et al. ( 2022 ) reviewed research to analyze the earlier studies about ecotourism. The conclusions expressed that ecotourism is necessary for environmental protection. However, it is a challenging plan for the government, and they should carry out various policies toward ecotourism development. Kunjuraman et al. ( 2022 ) studied the role of ecotourism on rural community development in Malaysia. The significant results confirmed that ecotourism could transfer-positive impacts.

Several earlier studies have concentrated on the characteristics of ecotourism in different developed and developing economies. For example, Ruhanen ( 2019 ) investigated the ecotourism status in Australia. The paper concluded that the country could potentially make a larger share of ecotourism to the entire local tourism industry. Jin et al. ( 2022 ) studied the role of local community power on green tourism in Japan. They concluded that the concept of agricultural village activity and regional support positively influences the development of green tourism in Japan as a developed economy. Choi et al. ( 2022 ) sought to find aspects of ecotourism development in South Korea. The preliminary results confirmed the importance of green governance and efficient regulation to promote a sustainable tourism industry. Baloch et al. ( 2022 ) explored the ecotourism specifications in the developing economy of Pakistan. They found that Pakistan’s ecotourism needs government support and the social well-being of the visited cities. Sun et al. ( 2022 ) studied ecotourism in China. They concluded that there is imbalanced development of ecotourism among Chinese provinces due to the need for more capital to invest in all ecotourism projects throughout the Chinese cities. Tajer and Demir ( 2022 ) analyzed the ecotourism strategy in Iran. They concluded that despite various potentials in the country, insufficient capital, lack of social awareness, and political tension are the major obstacles to promoting a sustainable tourism industry in Iran.

Another group of earlier studies has drawn attention to promoting eco-tourism in the post COVID era. They believe that the corona disease has created an excellent opportunity to pay more attention to environmental issues and that countries should move towards sustainable development concepts such as sustainable (eco) tourism in the post-corona era. Soliku et al. ( 2021 ) studied eco-tourism in Ghana during the pandemic. The findings depicted the vague impacts of a pandemic on eco-tourism. Despite the short-term negative consequence of the pandemic on eco-tourism, it provides various opportunities for developing this sector in Ghana. Hosseini et al. ( 2021 ) employed the Fuzzy Dematel technique to find solutions for promoting eco-tourism during COVID-19. They found out that planning to increase the capacity of eco-tourism and incentive policies by governments can help promote the eco-tourism aspect under the pandemic’s consequences. Abedin et al. ( 2022 ) studied the consequence of COVID-19 on coastal eco-tourism development. The primary findings confirmed the negative impacts of a pandemic on the development of eco-tourism.

A review of previous studies shows that tourism can positively impact green growth and sustainable development. Sustainable tourism can be used as a policy to deal with the threat of climate change. This issue needs more attention in the corona and post-corona eras. Because in the post-corona era, many countries have sought to revive green economic growth, and ecotourism can be one of the tools to achieve it. As observed, a detailed study of the relationship between climate change, ecotourism, and environmental policies has yet to be done. Therefore, this research will address and fill this literature gap.

Data and model specification

Data description.

The paper seeks to find the relationship between climate change, ecotourism, and environmental policy for the panel of 40 developing economies from different regions from 2010 to 2021 (480 observations). The sample size could have been more extensive due to the lack of information on some variables. However, there are 480 observations in the data analysis of the data panel; therefore, the number of samples selected is acceptable.

To determine the proxies for main variables, CO2 emissions per capita are selected as the proxy for climate change. Many earlier studies (e.g., Espoir et al., 2022 ) have employed this variable as an appropriate variable representing the status of climate change. Regarding ecotourism, the World Tourism Organization proposed some measurements of sustainable tourism, and also following Yusef et al. ( 2014 ), the entropy weight method is employed to calculate a multi-dimensional ecotourism indicator comprising per capita green park area (square meters), gross domestic tourism revenue (US dollars), the ratio of good air quality (%), green transport, renewable water resources (km3) and deforestation rate (%). It is a novel ecotourism indicator that can show the ecotourism status in countries.

In addition, the green governance index is calculated as a proxy for environmental policy. Principally, the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) data from World Bank are gathered to calculate this variable. With the improvement of the Green Governance Index, the quality of environmental policies will also increase, and vice versa. With the adverseness of the Green Governance Index, the efficiency of environmental policies will decrease.

Regarding control variables, the inflation rate as an influential factor in tourism flows is selected. The importance of this variable to promoting/declining tourism flows has been drawn to attention by some earlier studies, such as Liu et al. ( 2022 ). The inflation rate can raise the total cost of travel, causing a reduction in tourism flows, while any reduction in the inflation rate can increase the intention of tourists to travel. In addition, the KOF globalization index provided by the KOF Swiss Economic Institute is another control variable. A country with a higher degree of globalization means more readiness to accept tourists from countries with different cultures and religions.

Model specification

According to the variables mentioned above, 40 examined developing countries from 2010 to 2021, the panel co-integration model can be written as Eq. 1 :

ETOR indicates the ecotourism index, while CO2, GGI, INF, and GLOB denote Carbon dioxide emissions per capita, green governance index, inflation rate, and globalization index, respectively. i is 1,2,…,40 and shows examined developing economies, while t is time and contains 2010, 2011,..,2021.

Prior to the estimation of coefficients of Eq. 1 , the panel unit root tests are employed to find out whether the series is stationary. To this end, three tests of LLC (Levin et al., 2002 ), Breitung’s test ( 2000 ), and the PP-Fisher test (Philips and Perron, 1988 ). If all the variables are stationary at the first level of difference (I(1)), a panel co-integration test can be conducted to explore whether the model is spurious. To this end, Kao’s co-integration test ( 1999 ) and Pedroni’s residual co-integration test ( 2004 ) are conducted. If the co-integration relationship exists among variables, the panel causality test can be run to determine the causal linkages among variables. In this paper, the two steps of Engle and Granger (1987)‘s test, which is based on the error correction model (ECM) is used as Eqs. 2 – 6 :

In the above Equations, Δ is the first differences of variables, while θ and ECT represent the fixed country effect and error correction term.

The next step is the long-run panel co-integration estimations. To this end, Fully Modified OLS (FMOLS) and Dynamic OLS (DOLS) as robustness checks are conducted, which are two famous panel co-integration estimators (Rasoulinezhad, 2018 ). The FMOLS estimator has various advantages. It allows serial correlation, endogeneity, and cross-sectional heterogeneity (Erdal and Erdal, 2020 ).

Empirical results

In this section, we will implement the experimental research model. The purpose of implementing an econometric model based on panel data is to find the effects of green governance variables and carbon dioxide emissions on ecotourism. As the first step, the panel unit root tests are conducted. The results are reported in Table 1 as follows:

According to Table 1 , all three-panel unit root tests depict that all series are non-stationary at the level and become stationary after a first difference. Next, the panel co-integration tests are conducted, and their results are represented in Tables 2 and 3 :

The two-panel co-integration tests’ findings confirm the presence of co-integration linkages among variables.

The panel causality test studies the short-term and long-term causal relationship among variables. Table 4 reports the results of the panel causality check as follows:

According to Table 4 , there is a uni-directional causal relationship between the green governance indicator and the inflation rate of the ecotourism indicator. At the same time, there is a bi-directional causal relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and ecotourism indicators, confirming the existence of the feedback effect. In addition, there is only short-term causality from the green governance indicator to carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, ecotourism and the globalization index have a uni-directional causal linkage. In the short term, improving ecotourism can cause globalization and reduce carbon emissions in developing economies. Regarding the long-term causality, it can be concluded that the ECT of ecotourism, green governance index, and globalization index are statistically significant. These three variables are major adjustment variables when the system departs from equilibrium.

In the last stage, the long-run estimations are done through FMOLS and DOLS estimators. Table 5 lists the results of the estimations by these two-panel co-integration estimators:

Based on FMOLS estimation, it can be concluded that the Green Governance index has a positive and significant coefficient in such a way that with a 1% improvement in the green governance index of developing countries, the ecotourism of these countries will increase by 0.43%. By improving the state of green governance, the quality of formulated and implemented green policies in these countries will increase, improving the conditions of ecotourism development. This finding aligns with Agrawal et al. ( 2022 ) and Debbarma and Choi ( 2022 ), who believe that green governance is essential to sustainable development. In the case of carbon dioxide emissions, the coefficient of this variable is not statistically significant. In other words, the variable of carbon dioxide emissions per capita has no significant effect on ecotourism in developing countries. The inflation rate has a significant negative effect on ecotourism. With a 1% increase in the general prices of goods and services in developing countries, ecotourism will decrease by 0.34%. This finding aligns with Rahman ( 2022 ), who showed a negative relationship between inflation and sustainable development in their research. An increase in inflation means an increase in the total cost of a tourist’s trip to the destination country, inhibiting the growth of tourist services.

Regarding the globalization variable, this variable has a significant positive effect on the ecotourism of developing countries. With a 1% increase in the globalization index of these countries, ecotourism will increase by 0.32%. Globalization means more interaction with the world’s countries, acceptance of different cultures and customs, more language learning in society, more acceptance of tourism, and development of tourist services in the country. This finding is consistent with the results of Akadiri et al. ( 2019 ), who confirmed that globalization is one of the crucial components in tourism development.

The DOLS estimator was also used to ensure the obtained findings’ validity. The results of this method are shown in Table 5 . The signs of the coefficients are consistent with the results obtained by the FMOLS method. Therefore, the validity and reliability of the obtained coefficients are confirmed.

In this section, we will briefly discuss the relationship between ecotourism and climate change and the environmental policy considering the uncertainty and the relationship between variables in developed and developing countries.

Consideration of uncertainty

Uncertainty as a primary reason for risk has become a research issue in recent decades. Uncertainty can make the future unpredictable and uncontrollable, affecting economic decision-making. Regarding tourism, the impacts of uncertainty have been drawn to attention by several earlier studies (e.g., Dutta et al., 2020 ; Das et al., 2020 ; and Balli et al., 2019 ; Balli et al., 2018 ). In general, uncertainty in the tourism industry reflects tourists’ concerns and consumption habits in the way that by increasing uncertainty, it is expected that tourists make sense of risks and postpone their tourism activities, and vice versa; in the sphere of certainties, the various risks are clear, and tourists can make rational decisions for their tourism plans and activities. In order to explore the impacts of uncertainties on eco-tourism of the examined developing economies, the geopolitical risk index (GPR) as a proxy for economic policy uncertainty index is gathered and added as a control variable to Eq. 1 . The estimations results by FMOLS are reported in Table 6 as follows.

According to Table 6 , the uncertainty (geopolitical risk) has a negative coefficient meaning that with a 1% increase in geopolitical risk, the eco-tourism industry in the examined developing countries decreases by approximately 0.69%. The signs of coefficients of other variables align with the earlier findings, represented in Table 5 . In addition, the magnitude of the impact of geopolitical risk is larger than the impacts of other variables highlighting the importance of lower geopolitical risk in these economies to reach sustainable tourism targets.

Difference in developed and developing economies

Considering the different structures and financial power of these two groups of countries, the relationship between the variables mentioned in these two groups is expected to be different. In the previous section, the results for the group of developing countries showed that the Green Governance index has a positive and significant coefficient. In the case of carbon dioxide emissions, the coefficient of this variable is not statistically significant. The inflation rate has a significant negative effect on ecotourism. Regarding the globalization variable, it can be mentioned that this variable has a significant positive effect on the ecotourism of developing countries. In order to analyze the relationship between variables in the developed countries, the top 10 countries with the highest HDI in 2021 are selected (Switzerland (0.962), Norway (0.961), Iceland (0.959), Hong Kong (0.952), Australia (0.951), Denmark (0.948), Sweden (0.947) and Ireland (0.945)). The selected variables, explained in section “Data and model specification”, are collected from 2010 to 2021. The panel unit root tests confirmed that all series are non-stationary at the level and become stationary after a first difference. In addition, the presence of co-integration linkages among variables is revealed by the panel co-integration test. The panel co-integration estimator of FMOLS is employed to study the long-term relationship among variables. The findings are reported in Table 7 as follows:

According to the estimated coefficients, the green governance indicator positively and statistically significantly impacts ecotourism in the examined developed economies. However, the magnitude of the impact of this variable is more considerable for developing countries because these countries have more imbalances in markets and regulations. Therefore, the presence of good green tourism can have a more positive effect on advancing the goal of ecotourism. Contrary to the findings of developing countries, carbon dioxide emission in developed countries has a negative and significant effect, meaning that with an increase of 1% in carbon dioxide in developed countries, the level of ecotourism becomes more unfavorable by 0.034%. Moreover, inflation and globalization variables have significant negative and positive coefficients, respectively. However, the magnitudes of these two variables’ coefficients are also higher in developing countries. Ecotourism in developing countries is more sensitive to changes in macroeconomic variables such as green governance, globalization, and inflation.

Another difference between eco-tourism in developed and developing economies may be interpreted through the term “greenwashing,” introduced by Westerveld in 1986 (Maichum et al., 2016 ). In developing countries, due to the economic structure, limited knowledge, bureaucratic process, lack of legal eco-certification, and imperfect competition, a company involved in the eco-tourism industry makes an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into accepting the company’s services are in line with environmental protection policies. Hence, green governance in developing countries should have another role in regulating the eco-tourism market to lower the threat of greenwashing in eco-tourism services.

Conclusions and policy recommendations

Concluding remarks.

The findings of econometric modeling revealed the relationship between environmental policies, climate change, and ecotourism. Based on the findings of the econometric model, the following conclusions can be presented:

A uni-directional causal relationship runs from the green governance indicator and inflation rate to the ecotourism indicator, which means that any changes in green governance and inflation rate cause changes in ecotourism, which is vital for developing economies where governance and inflation rate are two crucial issues.

There is a bi-directional causal relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and ecotourism indicators, confirming the existence of the feedback hypothesis, expressing that in developing economies, any policies related to ecotourism cause changes in CO2 emissions and vice versa.

There is only short-term causality from the green governance indicator to carbon dioxide emissions, whereas there is a uni-directional causal linkage from ecotourism to the globalization index. In other words, in the short term, improving ecotourism can cause globalization and reduce carbon emissions in developing economies.

By improving green governance in developing economies, the quality of formulated and implemented green policies in these countries will increase, improving the conditions of ecotourism development.

An increase in the inflation rate raises the total cost of a tourist’s trip to developing economies, inhibiting the growth of eco-tourist services.

Globalization means more interaction with the world’s countries, acceptance of different cultures and customs, more language learning in society, more acceptance of tourism, and development of tourist services in developing countries.

Policy implications

In order to achieve the promotion of ecotourism in developing countries, the implementation of integrated and effective strategic and practical policies is of great importance. According to the concluding remarks mentioned, practical policies are presented as follows for enhancing ecotourism in developed countries. The development of ecotourism requires the improvement of various infrastructures and mechanisms, which depends on the implementation of projects related to ecotourism in developing countries. Because most countries do not have enough financial power to invest in such projects, developing the green financing market can be one of the critical practical solutions. The green financing tool can increase the investment risk and return on investment in such projects, and as a result, the participation of the private sector in these projects will increase. With information and communication technology development, virtual tourism can solve many environmental issues related to human physical presence. Virtual tourism is one of the branches of tourism services that provide people with destinations, places of interest, and tourist attractions with full quality but in virtual form. Another practical policy is granting green loans to small and medium enterprises active in ecotourism. Despite the organizational agility, these companies do not have the significant financial power to develop different sectors of ecotourism; therefore, the cooperation of the banking industry of developing countries by providing green loans (with low-interest rates) can motivate small and medium-sized companies in the field of activities related to ecotourism. Government incentives to motivate businesses active in ecotourism and government deterrent policies (green tax) from businesses active in the field of tourism to lead them to increase the share of ecotourism in their activities can be a proper operational strategy. In developing countries, the role of government and green governance is vital in advancing the goals of ecotourism. By improving the level of its green governance, the government can create efficient policies, regulations, and social tools to create motivation and desire to accept ecotourism, an essential and undeniable issue in developing societies. Creating a guarantee fund for ecotourism companies in developing countries is another practical policy to support these companies financially. Guarantee funds can be established with the participation of the people of ecotourism destinations in order to strengthen the financial strength of ecotourism companies in these destinations.

Limitations and recommendations to further research

This research had a practical and innovative contribution to the literature on ecotourism in developing countries. The findings obtained from the econometric model analysis provided appropriate practical and strategic policies to the policymakers of countries interested in the development of ecotourism. However, access to data related to the ecotourism index and sustainable development of developing countries due to the lack of community in a specific database is considered one of the critical limitations of this research. This limitation caused many developing countries to be excluded from the research sample, which may have created a deviation in the research. Adding more countries to the test sample in future research is suggested to obtain complete and accurate results. Also, due to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic at the end of 2019 and the Russia-Ukraine war since the beginning of 2022, it is suggested that these two variables be included in the econometric model as an illusion in order to analyze their effects on the ecotourism of the countries of the world. Using other econometric methods, such as artificial neural networks, is suggested to model ecotourism in different countries. Complex modeling by taking into account trends and trends to predict the relationship between variables in the future will be an essential step in formulating effective programs in ecotourism.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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ecological tourism trends


sustainability • ethics • climate • waste • renewables • ecology • poverty • equality

6 Sustainable Travel Trends for 2023 – Ethical Tourism Tips

By Aleksandra Staromiejska of PhotoAiD

Sustainable travel has become more important than ever before, as the impact of climate change and environmental degradation becomes increasingly apparent. As we look ahead, sustainable travel practices will play a key role in the recovery of the travel industry. More and more travelers are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment and support local communities and economies.

As a result, sustainable travel trends are on the rise. They help preserve the planet for future generations, but also provide travelers with unique, authentic experiences. In this blog post, we’ll explore them in more detail.

Table of Contents

Our List of Sustainable Travel Trends

Sustainable Travel Trends: Igloo huts in the snow under a blue sky

Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Eco-friendly accommodations are a growing trend as more travelers look for ways to reduce their environmental impact. According to the Passport Photo Online Study , 60% of Americans have stayed at a hotel that follows sustainable practices at least once over the last two years. So, what are the options when it comes to this type of housing?

One popular option is eco-lodges, which are often located in remote, natural areas, and usually rely on renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and use sustainable building materials. Many eco-lodges are also involved in conservation and community development efforts, giving travelers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the local area. A good tip is to look for the Green Key label .

Another popular form of eco-friendly accommodation is glamping, which is a combination of camping and luxury amenities. Glamping tents are typically equipped with comfortable beds, electricity, and even private bathrooms. They allows travelers to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while reducing their environmental footprint, compared to traditional camping.

When choosing eco-friendly accommodations, it’s important to verify that the property truly practices sustainable practices and not only using the term as a marketing strategy. Look for certificates or awards that demonstrate their commitment, such as eco-certification and green-key awards, you can also check their website or reach out to them to inquire about their sustainability practices.

It’s also a good idea to learn about the rules of the country you wish to travel to, and if you can work on your holiday. Working holiday visas are great for those looking to work and travel at the same time. 

Wildlife grazing a dry grassy field with mountains in the distance

Ecotourism and Responsible Wildlife Tourism

Ecotourism focuses on preserving the environment and improving the well-being of local communities. There are many different types of ecotourism activities and destinations, each offering a unique and educational experience for tourists.

We definitely recommend looking into wildlife safaris in national parks and game reserves . These trips allow tourists to observe animals in their natural habitats while supporting conservation efforts. Visitors can go on guided tours with expert guides to learn about the different species of animals they encounter and learn about the work being done to protect them.

Hiking and camping in wilderness areas is also a great example. This type of travel allows visitors to experience the beauty of nature while promoting the preservation of natural habitats. Popular destinations for this include the Amazon rainforest, the Grand Canyon and many national parks around the world.

Volunteer vacations are another great option. These trips involve participating in conservation or community development projects in remote areas. For example, you can work on a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica or build a school in a rural village in Africa. This type of eco-tourism allows visitors to make a meaningful impact while learning about local cultures and ways of life.

Or, maybe you will be interested in agritourism ? Visitors can stay on working farms or ranches, learn about sustainable agriculture practices. This is an opportunity to learn about the local culture, tradition and also sustainable way of living. Ecotourism homestays are another way to learn about local culture while supporting conservation efforts. Tourists can stay with local families in a rural area and engage in traditional ways of living. This type of eco-tourism is a great way to learn about the local culture while supporting the local community.

Many scooters driving across a bridge

Sustainable Transportation Options

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in sustainable transportation . One example is the increased popularity of eco-friendly modes of travel, such as biking and walking . Many travelers are choosing to explore new destinations on foot or by bike, as these modes of transportation not only reduce carbon emissions, but also offer an immersive and active way to experience a new place.

Public transit is also rapidly gaining popularity, as more and more travelers are choosing to take the train , bus, or subway rather than driving or flying to their destination. Public transit can be a more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable way to get around, particularly in urban areas. Many cities are now investing in public transit infrastructure to make it even more convenient for tourists to travel sustainably.

Another trend in sustainable transportation is the growing popularity of electric cars for road trips . Electric cars are powered by electricity rather than gasoline, which means they produce zero emissions and are much more environmentally friendly. Many car rental companies and even hotels now offer electric cars and charging stations as an option to help travelers reduce their environmental impact while still enjoying the freedom of a road trip.

Delicious-looking cafe meal up close with a coffee and green smoothie

Sustainable Food and Gastronomy

Sustainable food and gastronomy is not only good for the environment but also for travelers’ health and well-being, as well as supporting local economies. One way that the travel industry is promoting sustainable food options is by sourcing ingredients from local and organic farms . This helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the food by minimizing transportation. Many restaurants are also using seasonal produce, which not only is sustainable but also helps to create unique and delicious dishes.

Another aspect of sustainable food and gastronomy is reducing food waste . Some hotels are now implementing food waste reduction programs, such as composting, using leftovers to make new dishes, and encouraging guests to take leftovers with them. This not only helps to reduce waste but also helps to make sure that the food is used efficiently and sustainably.

Sustainable food also encompasses responsible sourcing of ingredients . This can include avoiding ingredients that are overfished or that are harvested in a destructive way, as well as avoiding products from animals raised in inhumane conditions. Additionally, some restaurants and hotels also promote plant-based options, and reduce the overall consumption of animal products.

Two breakfate plates- eggs, bacon, avodaco--and a coffee

Circular Economy Tourism

Circular economy is a new concept that focuses on creating closed-loop systems and reducing waste by reducing the use of resources, reusing materials and recycling waste. Many hotels and resorts are now implementing recycling programs and encouraging guests to reduce their waste during their stay. This can include simple steps such as separating recyclable materials, composting food waste, or even installing water-saving showerheads.

The reuse of resources, such as energy and water is also encouraged. This can be done by using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to power hotels and resorts, or by installing systems for capturing and treating greywater for reuse in irrigation. The circular economy also applies to transport services, an important aspect of tourism. This can include promoting electric vehicles, carpooling, or even bike-sharing schemes to reduce the number of cars on the road and decrease carbon emissions.

Handcrafted souvenirs

Reducing Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics are a major environmental concern , and the travel industry is one of the major contributors to this problem. Plastic bottles, straws, and bags are frequently used and discarded in the travel industry, and these items can take hundreds of years to degrade in the environment. As a result, reducing single-use plastics and promoting environmentally-friendly products is becoming an important focus for the travel industry.

Promoting the use of reusable water bottles is an important step. Many hotels and tour operators are now providing guests with reusable water bottles, or even filling stations where guests can refill their own bottles. This helps to reduce the number of plastic bottles that are used and discarded while traveling.

Another trend is offering biodegradable and compostable alternatives to single-use plastics. For example, some hotels are now providing guests with biodegradable soap and shampoo in their rooms, and some tour operators are using biodegradable plates and utensils on their trips. These products are made from natural materials, such as bamboo and corn starch, that can break down quickly and won’t harm the environment.

Future of Sustainable Travel

As the world continues to grapple with the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, the travel industry has an important role to play in promoting sustainable practices. By choosing sustainable travel options, travelers can not only reduce their environmental impact but also support local economies. As travelers become more conscious about the impact of their travel choices, we can expect to see even more sustainable travel trends emerge in 2023 and beyond.

It’s important to remember that sustainable travel doesn’t mean giving up on comfort or luxury, it’s all about finding a balance between responsible tourism, environmental protection and economic development. It’s encouraging to see that the travel industry is actively participating in these efforts and continuously working to innovate and make sustainable travel more accessible to all. As travelers, let’s also do our part in making sustainable travel choices, for the health of our planet, communities and ourselves.

4 tourists in the firest with a guide and two elephants


Author’s bio:

Aleksandra Staromiejska is a travel, food, and wellness passionate who has visited 50+ countries on four continents. She is a Travel Leader for the adventurous travel company Solisci Adventure Club and the Digital PR Specialist at PhotoAiD . After spending a couple of months in Thailand and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, she is getting ready for another adventure – spending winter in Bali.

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Sustainable Tourism: the trends that will mark 2022

Sustainable tourism has become an important goal for a growing number of potential travellers. While people still want to visit new places, even in this second year of the pandemic, it is also true that it is no longer possible to ignore climate issues and the impact of human activities on the planet.

For this reason, a growing number of people commit to travel responsibly. Therefore, it is essential for tour operators, hotels, and service providers to be aware of emerging trends and to align their offers to this new challenge . How can they achieve this goal? This is what you need to know about sustainable tourism in 2022.

Sustainable tourism: what you need to know

Sustainability has increasingly become a way of life, rather than a mere trend, and this is also influencing the way people travel. Germans are well aware of this new scenario and have planned and promoted tourism accordingly, granting eco-friendly facilities with a low environmental impact and implementing green and smart mobility.

According to the University of Sydney, global tourism-related emissions are set to increase by 4% every year. The same study also shows that by 2030 there will be 1.8 billion tourists worldwide, every year. Therefore, it is extremely important to meet the needs of a growing number of environmentally conscious travellers

ecological tourism trends

This new business direction is also confirmed, among other things, by the increased  investments in electric mobility , just as the sales of electric vehicles continue to rise exponentially. In Norway, for instance, more than 50% of new cars are electric. This is inevitably reflected in tourism because electric cars are also used for travel and tourist facilities that offer charging stations are definitely making the most of this emerging trend. This move will protect the environment, attract more customers, and benefit from specific financing for innovative companies.

The same can be said of e-bikes , which are increasingly being used in holiday resorts and have become a symbol of a new eco-tourism, which is slow-paced and focuses on establishing a deeper connection with nature and the beauty of the landscapes. Long walks, exciting itineraries, and the possibility of visiting selected holiday destinations while reducing environmental impact are also important aspects of sustainable tourism.

Hotels that can offer their guests free bicycles, the possibility of recharging e-bikes, and deals with local tour operators specialising in sustainable travel and green mobility are attracting an increasing number of guests.

Offering experiences, not just services

Experiential tourism is also becoming increasingly popular and is set to become a major trend of sustainable travel.

Travellers are expecting to be offered more than individual "services": they are after immersive experiences allowing them to focus on the beauty of the Land, and the culture of the local population. In this respect, the innovative concept of “diffuse hotels” is playing a key role. This model involves accommodation that is not contained within a single facility but rather spread over multiple restored buildings within the same town. It is most popular in old European villages. This creative solution offers tourists a chance to enjoy an authentic local experience while relaunching splendid hamlets that have mostly been abandoned until now.

Another important growing tourism trend are " Digital Detox holidays ", in which travellers go temporarily off the grid to fight social media and digital device addiction.

Taking a break from the digital frenzy, they focus on activities that involve leaving technology temporarily behind and communing with nature. One such activity is "forest bathing", the Japanese wellness practice of getting entirely immersed in a natural landscape to restore both the mind and the body, reconnecting to one's deepest nature.

This trend, which can definitely be considered in line with sustainable travel, is also growing, because it meets the widespread need to relax, let go of stress, and take a break from our highly technological and fast-paced lifestyle.

Are you interested in sustainable tourism and eco-friendly business travel? Attend GECO Expo !


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Optimization model: the innovation and future of e-ecotourism for sustainability

Journal of Tourism Futures

ISSN : 2055-5911

Article publication date: 18 November 2021

This study aims to find a dynamic model in an effort to optimize tourism performance in ecotourism destinations. The model structure is built based on competitive performance in geographic areas and the application of ecotourism elements that are integrated with big data innovation through artificial intelligence technology.


Data analysis is performed through dynamic system modeling. Simulations are carried out in three models: First, existing simulation models. Second, Scenario 1 is carried out by utilizing a causal loop through innovation of big data-based artificial intelligence technology to ecotourism elements. Third, Scenario 2 is carried out by utilizing a causal loop through big data-based artificial intelligence technology on aspects of ecotourism elements and destination competitiveness.

This study provides empirical insight into the competitiveness performance of destinations and the performance of implementing ecotourism elements if integrated with big data innovations that will be able to massively demonstrate the growth of sustainable tourism performance.

Research limitations/implications

This study does not use a primary database, but uses secondary data from official sources that can be accessed by the public.

Practical implications

The paper includes implications for the development of intelligent technology based on big data and also requires policy innovation.

Social implications

Sustainable tourism development.


This study finds the expansion of new theory competitiveness of ecotourism destinations.

  • Dynamic model
  • Destination competitiveness
  • Ecotourism element

Eddyono, F. , Darusman, D. , Sumarwan, U. and Sunarminto, F. (2021), "Optimization model: the innovation and future of e-ecotourism for sustainability", Journal of Tourism Futures , Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JTF-03-2021-0067

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Fauziah Eddyono, Dudung Darusman, Ujang Sumarwan and Tutut Sunarminto

Published in Journal of Tourism Futures . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode .


Competition and globalization is a challenge for ecotourism destinations in an effort to develop and introduce new products, services and concepts at high speed so as to provide space for new customer demands that require a sustainable innovation management response in the future. Future innovation management is about how an institution can ensure its innovation management function is ready to face future challenges ( Jones et al. , 2016 ). Future tourism innovation strategies include a big data approach in an effort to map the potential and strengthen various aspects of tourism. Big data consists of much larger datasets that can capture information on a much larger scale and potentially reflect longitudinal changes in real-time ( Kitchin, 2013 ). Indeed, the rapid development of technology and big data analytics has transformed tourism research ( DeLyser and Sui, 2013 ). Recent advances in big data technology and analytics have also brought innovative research approaches, unconventional data sources and vast amounts of information providing new opportunities for ecotourism research.

The digital transformation that occurred in the recent 4.0 revolution era has also been able to change the entire cycle of the tourism ecosystem, including being the cause of the shift in cyber and visual culture for tourists. The impact of the shift in cyber culture, which can be seen from digital transformation in the 4.0 revolution era, is a change in the decision-making process for traveling to ecotourism destinations ( Eddyono, 2020 ). Thus, this change in travel decision-making forces the management of ecotourism destinations to adapt in managing the supply aspect of ecotourism in an effort to meet the needs of tourists. Management of ecotourism destinations must be able to find future innovations with the concept of “present” through a big data approach.

Eddyono (2020) illustrates that innovation in managing national parks as ecotourism destinations in the future requires three main pillars, namely big data, ecotourism elements and destination competitiveness. Big data is used to analyze the behavior of ecotourism tourists, predict trends and produce faster and more detailed statistics in an effort to improve supply performance of ecotourism destinations based on tourists' digital footprints. The ecotourism element is the application of ecotourism standards related to the protection of ecosystems and the maintenance of unique ecosystems where ecotourism attractions are located, which is a significant attraction for tourists ( WTO, 2004 ). In addition to requiring the attractiveness of ecotourism elements, national park sites also require a facilitating element in the form of tourism competitiveness in the region so that ecotourism destinations are more easily accessible to tourists and to make it easier for tourists to meet their needs while traveling ( Eddyono et al. , 2021b ).

National parks as ecotourism destinations are also the management of niche tourism destinations so that progressive data drive online reputation management also takes on a strategic role. Niche tourism refers to how particular tourism products can be adjusted to meet the needs of specific market segments; the more a manager knows about tourist perceptions, the more he can attract new tourists ( Tussyadiah, 2014 ). In the digital era, as it is today, it is marked by the abundance of freely available information online ( Petruzzelli et al. , 2012 ), and the information in the form of big data set is now available to anyone who can analyze it. Besides, big data contains so much information that it can provide all the information needed by the park manager to monitor better than ever about the perceptions of tourists ( Raguseo, 2018 ; Scuotto et al. , 2017 ).

Although there is no complete definition of what big data is, it can be said that big data is a feature of having large data volumes, speed (data generated in real time), variety (structured and unstructured) and resolution (highly detailed) ( Kitchin, 2014 ). The use of big data in research is not only able to examine causal relationships but is also able to describe the relationships between links ( Zhang et al. , 2018 ) and bring traditional research (micro-level) to a macro-scale ( Wu et al. , 2015 ). Big data sources include not only large administrative datasets ( Connelly et al. , 2016 ) but also data generated by sensors, cell phones and radio frequency identification ( Heerschap et al. , 2014 ). Big data is used for management performance improvement strategies because the use of big data is able to analyze consumer behavior, predict trends and produce faster and more detailed statistics so as to shift social science research into data driven, which is called the fourth research paradigm ( Kitchin, 2013 ).

In developing a tourism destination that has a national park, two factors can be created, namely the performance of the destination competitiveness and the performance of the application of ecotourism elements in the national park ( Eddyono, 2020 ). Gooroochurn and Sugiyarto (2005) argue the issue of competitiveness of tourism destinations is becoming increasingly important, especially for countries and regions that are highly dependent on tourism. A destination can be considered competitive if it can attract and satisfy potential tourists. The competitiveness of a destination directly influences tourism revenue in terms of the number of visitors and expenses, and the competitiveness of the destination will also indirectly affect businesses related to tourism, such as hotels and retail industries in tourism destination. Because of the enormous contribution of tourism to economic growth, the tourism industry and related issues have received much attention, especially on competitiveness. Many countries and regions recognize the importance of the economic development of tourism, which starts by utilizing various resources to improve the image and tourist attraction in the eyes of foreign tourists ( Ritchie et al. , 2000 ).

Related to the application of ecotourism elements in national parks, its performance refers to the perspective of ecotourism destination indicators that focus on ecotourism elements. Implementation performance refers to the view of sustainable tourism development indicators ( WTO, 2004 ). It is in line with the theory of ecotourism, where ecotourism is tourism that is in harmony with the environment and social life, contributes positively to the local economy and conservation of protected areas and educates tourists about nature and local culture ( Gössling and Hultman, 2006 ).

This study aims to find a dynamic model in an effort to increase performance of tourism as the number of foreign tourist arrivals and tourism receipts in ecotourism destinations is based on the competitiveness performance of destinations, and the performance of implementing ecotourism elements is integrated with big data. The modeling database leverages the competitive performance and application of ecotourism elements in national parks in Indonesia. The results of this analysis will provide a comprehensive picture of the increase in which the performance of destination competitiveness and the performance of the application of ecotourism elements and the use of big data innovations can increase the number of foreign tourist visits and tourism revenue in ecotourism destinations.

The results of this analysis will provide an overview of which performance is the competitiveness and performance that supports the ecotourism element, and the utilization of big data innovations can increase the number of foreign tourists to the national park as ecotourism destination. The effect of economic life caused by tourism comes from the visit of foreign tourists in a tourism destination; the visit of foreign tourists can provide prosperity and welfare for residents, where tourism is developed ( Clement, 1961 ).

The selection of the modeling database is because national parks are one of the potential of ecotourism destinations in Indonesia. Until 2020, Indonesia has recorded 54 national park sites, spread across geographical districts and cities with an area of almost 16.3 million hectares ( KLHK, 2017 ). National parks in Indonesia are nature conservation areas that have unique characteristics of biodiversity and ecosystems that function as protection of life support systems and are managed according to zoning systems. The national park, which is used for ecotourism activities, is in a utilization zone. The relatively undisturbed utilization area has unique natural values and high conservation interests that have the potential for ecotourism development to provide significant benefits for the surrounding area ( Bismark and Sawitri, 2014 ). The choice of tourism destination areas is a central element in travel decisions ( Damanik and Weber, 2006 ).

Materials and methods

Data analysis method.

Data analysis is performed through dynamic system modeling. Dynamic systems are mathematical solving techniques by describing small problems that will be more easily solved ( Hiller and Liberman, 1980 ). Dynamic system analysis is part of the system approach that comes from developing system theory. The system approach has two general characteristics, namely (1) in all the essential factors that exist find an excellent solution to solve the problem and (2) a quantitative model is made to form decisions rationally ( Marimin, 2005 ). Further, Forrester (1994) states that dynamic systems are systems that have a passionate nature (change with time), and the structure of the phenomenon contains at least one feedback structure .

The probabilistic model is one of the dynamic system models that forms the basis of the model in this study. A probabilistic model is a statistical model that can be used when product demand or other factors are unknown but can be found using a probability distribution. Thus, probabilistic models are real-world adjustments because demand and waiting times are not always known and are constant ( Dimyati and Dimyati, 1992 ).

The operational stages of the model

Stock flow diagram.

Building a stock-flow map is a depiction of the interrelationships of existing structures in the form of stock (level), flow, auxiliary, constant and information link ( Figure 1 ). The existence of stock and flow structures in real life must be represented in the model ( Sterman, 2002 ).

Dynamic system model

The active system model consists of two sub-models, namely the competitiveness performance model of destinations to the number of foreign tourist visits and the performance model of the application of ecotourism elements to the number of tourist visits. The most commonly used factor in measuring international tourism demand is tourist arrival from the country and area of origin to a particular destination, followed by tourist expenditure and staying in accommodation registered at the destination ( Gao-jun and Xuan-tao, 2003 ; Song et al. , 2008 ). Tourist arrivals usually function as dependent factors in tourism demand studies, and factors that influence tourist arrivals are often considered explanatory factors ( Geiger and Goh, 2012 ). Other reviews also say almost the same thing; in the tourism demand literature, the dependent factor is the number of tourist arrivals ( Mieczkowski and Chadee, 1987 ; Gunadhi and Boey, 1986 ; Patsouratis et al. , 2005 ), per capita vacation visits ( Martin and Witt, 1988 )) or tourist expenses ( González and Moral, 1995 ; Papatheodorou, 1999 ; Thompson and Thompson, 2010 ).

Several studies have shown that many factors can influence tourist arrivals, including transportation accessibility, weather, economic environment and duration of travel ( Albalate and Bel, 2010 ; Cho, 2003 ; Taylor and Ortiz, 2009 ; Van der Merwe and Saayman, 2008 ; Eddyono et al. , 2021a ). As indicated by Cizmar and Weber (2000) , the choice of a tourism destination remains one of the first and most important decisions made by tourists; and this decision is in turn mainly subject to many external factors, such as the country's image, accessibility, attractiveness, safety and others. Special attention to competitiveness must be directed at improving the way management of destinations that focuses on creativity, tourist safety, demand conditions, historical and cultural heritage resources, organizers and cleanliness ( Pansiri, 2014 ).

Referring to the perspective of sustainable tourism development indicators, the application of sustainable practices in ecotourism destinations focus on the following elements: (1) conservation of the natural environment; (2) relations with local communities, preservation of cultural assets; (3) operation of national parks; (4) references with local communities and conservation of cultural assets; (5) operationalization of National Parks; (6) ecotourism marketing and (7) tourist security and safety ( WTO, 2004 ). The application of ecotourism elements is the pillars of the sustainability of ecotourism destinations such as elements of nature conservation, local community relations and preservation of cultural assets, operationalization as well as the security and safety of ecotourism activities ( Eddyono, 2020 ).

The purpose of nature conservation is to conserve resources, especially biodiversity, and maintain sustainable use of resources, which bring ecological experience to travelers, preserve the ecological environment and get economic benefits ( Fajnylber, 1988 ). Ecotourism standards related to ecosystem protection, including the maintenance of ecosystems where ecotourism attractions are located, protection and care of wildlife, especially endangered species, and wildlife living in harmony with humans, rare flora and fauna and unique ecosystems are significant attractions for tourists ( OECD, 1992 ). Biodiversity is a substantial asset for nature-based tourism, which has experienced rapid growth. There are mutual benefits between sustainably managed tourism and nature conservation where tourism has significant potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation because biodiversity is an essential component of the natural environment enjoyed by tourists ( WTO, 2004 ).

An essential part of ecotourism activities is experiencing the lifestyles of traditional communities that inhabit natural areas. The small community, traditional, authenticity is very sensitive to the sociocultural impact of tourism. Active participation and agreement of local communities in sustainable ecotourism management are fundamental. Community participation in the definition of indicators and monitoring processes is crucial because tourism will affect their daily lives, and they are the people who can best evaluate the impact and decide the level of ecotourism activities that meet the expectations of the local community. Ecotourism requires a combination of conservation and tourism (the economics associated with it) to benefit local communities, especially those that focus on environmental sustainability ( Van der Merwe and Saayman, 2008 ).

The operationalization of ecotourism is usually expected to minimize negative impacts on the natural environment and socio-culture and contribute to the conservation of natural areas. For this reason, ecotourism activities are typically organized by specialist tour operators for small groups. The level of sustainability of an ecotourism destination depends on operational practices and the quality of services offered. Indicators can help measure the achievement of operational standards for destination managers as in the certification system and can help in achieving control of tourism impacts ( WTO, 2004 ). Operationalization is also related to carrying capacity. The tourism carrying capacity is defined as the maximum number of people who can visit tourism destinations at the same time, without causing environmental, sociocultural, economic damage and an unacceptable decline in the quality of visitor satisfaction ( Mowforth and Munt, 2015 ).

The application of ecotourism elements gives a special place to the marketing concept. The importance of proper marketing is widely recognized throughout the tourism sector, which today, the tourism market has been increasingly segmented through communication methods to reach consumers has multiplied and varied ( Boghean and Boghean, 2006 ).

Ecotourism activities are often held in remote areas with certain conditions, for example in rain forests, deserts and mountains that involve physical activities, such as tracking, canoeing and others. According to a study of the factors that are at the center of sustainable ecotourism ( Bassotti, 2003 ), the safety of activities is the second most important for tourists, after environmental protection. Indicators that respond to the safety and security of destinations and their operations are fundamentally consisting of public security and tourist security.

Causal loops

Make a causal loop diagram which is a picture of the reciprocal relationship or cause and causal effect (causal relationship) of existing structures ( Figure 1 ). System dynamics describes the system elements that interact with each other in feedback (causal loop) and subsequently will produce specific behaviors. Causal loops are developed in a diagram of the feedback process. Diagrams can be used in a variety of situations and conditions because the causal loop can present the relationship between the elements forming and the feedback process ( Sterman, 2000 ).

Simulation model

Simulation is a method used to study the dynamics of a phenomenon. The phenomenon is known to be structured, for example in the form of a collection of units, parts or elements that operate in several interconnected ways. Simulation describes the behavior of phenomena (systems) in their development over time. The simulation results show that the action of the network has grown, for example, the first time it rises like the S (sigmoid) curve, where the increase is prolonged at first. Growth is exponential for a period and is ended by saturation ( Sterman, 2002 ).

This model simulation utilizes secondary data from government and nongovernment parties through library research methods ( Zed, 2004 ). Secondary data sources are official public data that are already available in government agencies and nongovernment institutions. The method of collecting destination competitiveness data refers to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Competitiveness Monitor and Indicator Measuring Competitiveness in Tourism (IMCT).

This study conducts simulations of each regional cluster. Indonesia has three regional clusters, namely the outer Java and Bali cluster, the Java cluster region and the Bali cluster region. Simulations are carried out in three models, namely simulation of the existing model, which is the simulation of existing data from 2014 to 2018. The second simulation (Scenario 1) is carried out by leveraging causal loops through the innovation of artificial intelligence technology based on big data to ecotourism elements. The third simulation (Scenario 2) was carried out by leveraging causal loops through artificial intelligence technology based on big data to the aspects of ecotourism and destination competitiveness ( Figure 2 ).

Structural validation

Structural validation is a white-box validation, where a cross-check of the model has been produced and reviewed by experts in related fields ( Sushil, 1993 ), in this case for the area of destination competitiveness and ecotourism elements. In structural validation, validity testing is carried out on the extent of similarity of the structure of the model with the format in reality, which is shown by the extent to which the interaction of the model factors resembles the exchange of real events. Verification of structures involved in the process of the model being built ( Table 1 ) and described as a micro conception ( Figure 1 ).

Output/performance validation

Validating output/performance, which is to obtain the confidence to what extent the performance of the models from each cluster is following actual-world performance so that it qualifies as a fact-abiding scientific model. The simulation model that is built must be representative and logical so that it can describe the real world; this is done through the validation of the recommended statistical methods ( Tasrif, 2006 ). Among the several methods commonly used for validation purposes are the Theil statistical test and one error measurement method used in this study is RMSPE (root mean square per cent error) or the percentage error of the mean square root. The model is declared valid, so the error must be small and sourced from nonsystematic errors ( Sterman, 2002 ). MAPE (mean absolute percentage error) or the average percentage of absolute error or also known as the average percentage of deviation is a measure of the accuracy of prediction of forecasting methods in statistics ( Yamin and Shahidehpour, 2004 ).

Results and discussion

Regional cluster modeling.

Modeling simulations are carried out to get a picture of changes in the time scale. The results of the analysis of competitiveness destination and ecotourism element performance data were obtained in five years, which are then carried out as simulations with a dynamic system to get a picture of changes in the number of tourist visits and tourism revenue reception in that period. The dynamic simulation conducted is a simulation of an existing model (2014–2018). Graphic simulation results of the current models in a region cluster outside of Java and Bali, Java region cluster and Bali region cluster ( Figures 3–5 ).

The results of simulation models of existing cluster region outside Java and Bali, Java region cluster and Bali region cluster found that the value of destination competitiveness and the application of ecotourism elements experienced linear growth over time, where within a period of five years (2014–2018), it appears that the power performance destination competitiveness and the application of ecotourism elements consistently increase.

Test validity of performance

Validation of output/performance used data on tourist visits over a period of five years in clusters outside Java and Bali ( Figure 6 ), clusters in Java ( Figure 7 ) and clusters in Bali ( Figure 8 ). Graphically, it appears that the three models are quite good in describing the real world ( Sterman, 2002 ).

In addition to the Theil statistical test, a simple statistical test using MAPE was also used to see the accuracy and level of validity of the model. Based on the validation results ( Table 2 ), the MAPE value in the outer Java and Bali cluster is 6.20%, the Java region cluster is 4.95% and the Bali region cluster is 15.72%. The values for the clusters of regions outside Java and Bali and clusters in the Java region show the MAPE value (≤10%), which means that the accuracy of the model is high. The Bali area cluster showed MAPE values (10% < MAPE 20%), classified as good accuracy. Thus, the three simulation models developed are considered reliable and good enough to be used as simulation models and have high prediction accuracy ( Chang et al. , 2017 ).

Simulation model of artificial intelligence technology innovation based on big data

The simulation model is a model that is carried out for changes based on the determinant attributes. Scenario model 1 is done by using the controlling factor of the model, namely the innovation factor of artificial intelligence technology based on big data by utilizing the performance of the application of ecotourism elements to increase the number of tourist visits on a massive scale so that it has an impact on the acceptance of revenue tourism without intervening to optimize the application of the ecotourism element. While the Scenario model 2 utilizes the controlling factor of an artificial intelligence innovation model based on big data by using the performance of ecotourism elements that are integrated with the performance attributes of destination competitiveness in the geographical area of the national park. Changes in tourist growth in the existing model, Scenario model 1 and Scenario model 2 are presented in Table 3 , Figures 9–11 .

Based on the results of model simulations (existing model, Scenario model 1 and Scenario model 2) showed significant differences. Of the three scenarios, Scenario model 2 shows a very massive growth in tourism performance. In cluster areas outside Java and Bali, the growth in the number of tourist visits before the simulation was carried out was on average in the range of 13% per year. With the simulation of Model 1 ( Figure 9 ), there is a growth in the number of tourists and tourism income of 18% per year, respectively. With the simulation of Model 2, there is a growth in visits of 26% per year which the was only around 13% in the previous the existing model.

The simulation results in the Java region cluster show that at the beginning of simulation time (2014), all three models experienced the same conditions, namely the intersection or meeting point between the growth of tourist visits in the existing model, Scenario model 1 and Scenario model 2 ( Figure 10 ). The acceleration was due to an intervention on the innovation factor of artificial intelligence technology based on big data on the application of ecotourism elements. In connection with this intervention, the estimated number of tourists to the national park has increased by an average of 11% per year during the period 2014–2018. However, if intelligence technology innovation interventions are based on big data, it is carried out on ecotourism marketing through the use of factors in the application of ecotourism elements and competitiveness performance destination, and the growth in the number of tourists and tourism revenue will increase and be more massive, on average 21% during the period 2014–2018.

Simulation model 1 conducted in the Bali cluster region experienced a growth in the number of tourist visits before the simulation, an average of around 41% per year. With the scenario of model 1, there is a growth in the number of tourists and tourism revenue each by 80% per year ( Figure 11 ). Very different things happen in the existing model, where tourist visits tend not to be so massive until 2018. While simulation model 2 utilizes the controlling factor of an artificial intelligence innovation model based on big data on the application of ecotourism elements. With the scenario of model 2 in the region cluster, there is a growth of visits of 124% per year. The increase is the result of a simulation of management change through artificial intelligence technology innovation based on big data (see Figures 12 and 13 ).

On the other hand, in fact, to travel to the utilization zone of the ecotourism destination like national park and explore the conservation area is not always easy. Most of these areas are not easily accessible because natural areas tend to be in remote areas ( KLHK, 2017 ). The locations of ecotourism sites are generally located in remote areas, so there are often many obstacles to getting to the destination. The distance from the provincial capital which is far and limited transportation tends to hinder the acceleration of ecotourism development. Ecotourism destinations require a facilitating element in the form of tourism competitiveness in their region to make it more accessible to tourists, especially from foreign countries, and to make it easier for tourists to meet their needs during their traveling. This condition then causes the need for tourism competitiveness. The performance of tourism competitiveness in the geographical area of high ecotourism destinations will provide a better indication of tourist visits. Based on this, it can be understood that better competitiveness will provide space for an increase in the number of tourist visits to potential tourism objects in an area ( Eddyono et al. , 2021a ).

There are trade-offs between sustainably managed tourism and nature conservation. Such tourism has significant potential to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, which is an important component of the natural environment enjoyed by tourists ( WTO, 2004 ). This dual-component (ecological value and tourist value) is a challenge to ensure tourism development without destroying sensitive ecosystems. Ecotourism can provide the expected benefits for conservation and community development, so it should be an economically viable activity through tourist visits. National park tourist visits will be able to provide incentives for financing the conservation of the site and the economic benefits of local communities ( Eddyono et al. , 2021b ). Thus, to develop ecotourism destinations, policy innovations are needed to integrate the competitiveness of destination, the application of ecotourism elements and the application of artificial intelligent big data applications called e-ecotourism innovation.

In responding to this tourism market opportunity, national park management also requires the adoption of artificial intelligence technology based on big data. In the era of openness of the industrial revolution 4.0 as it is today, an innovative approach based on artificial intelligence technology is inevitable ( Schwab, 2016 ). Therefore, we need an innovation management process based on technology. The form of the development of destination artificial intelligence systems based on big data is integrated with the performance of the application of ecotourism elements in national parks and the management of destination competitiveness in the geographical area of National Parks in Indonesia. Along with the development of the 4.0 industrial revolution, digitization is increasingly becoming a requirement to be competitive in the tourism industry. For countries that do not integrate technology and increase connectivity will be left behind. In recent years, all states have significantly improved telecommunications infrastructure ( The World Economic Forum, 2018 ). This revolution gave rise to various digital innovations through the use of databases by utilizing the Internet network and predicted by artificial intelligence so that it could turn product-driven into solution-driven, impersonal to personalized, reactive to predictive and human to human and machine ( Schwab, 2016 ).

All developments and changes from this revolution led to the same key, namely through the use of the power of digitalization of information. Departing from this, like it or not, like it or not, national park management must start the process of innovation based on artificial intelligence technology based on data. The urgency of innovation-based management, because innovation is crucial in efforts to improve competitiveness, especially for long-term growth due to globalization, has made factors of production accessible everywhere ( Forsyth and Farran, 2013 ).

This urgency must be supported by policy innovation as legal protection for stakeholders. In principle, a policy must cover three things, namely legal certainty, expediency and justice. Innovation-based management will be more effective in its application if it obtains fair legal certainty so that its usefulness can be obtained. The higher the norm settings, the stronger and more binding the implementation will be – mainly if the norm provides sanctions.

A learning from Japan: Japan is one of the countries that is quite serious about implementing ecotourism elements through legislation. Similar to Indonesia, national parks in Japan are also managed under the coordination of the Ministry of Environment. The ministry is responsible for promoting ecotourism in Japan and establishing an ecotourism promotion policy in 2008 based on a holistic development framework. The Ministry is actively promoting ecotourism with alternative uses of national parks ( Hiwasaki, 2006 ). The national park used as a site model is the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park area and currently has developed into 13 ecotourism model projects ( Yamada, 2011 ).

Another case with the management of ecotourism is in Nepal. In Nepal, there is no government policy specifically addressing ecotourism, except for homestay regulations. Ecotourism practices in Nepal are formed by three elements of general tourism policies, namely (1) tourism policies issued by the Nepalese government, such as tourism policies and initiatives were taken to celebrate the 2011 Nepal tourism year and the 2020 Tourism Vision; (2) Government institutions, such as the ministry of tourism and transportation and the national trust for nature conservation and (3) nongovernmental organizations, such as the world wildlife fund for nature, the international union for nature and natural resource conservation, sustainable tourism networks and a global center for integrated.


The existing model shows that the performance of the application of ecotourism elements and the potential competitiveness of destinations in the national park's geographic region influence the visit of national park foreign tourists and have an impact on the growth of tourism revenue. To optimize the number of tourist visits that have an impact on the sustainable growth of tourism revenue, the model informs that artificial intelligence technology based on big data can be used as a leverage for the development of the number of foreign tourist arrivals and tourism revenue, if integrated with the existing performance conditions of the application of ecotourism elements and potential competitiveness in the geographical area cluster. Thus, it can be said that the competitiveness of ecotourism consists of two factors, namely the performance of destination competitiveness and the application of ecotourism elements. Ecotourism competitiveness can be optimized again if it is integrated with traces of ecotourism tourist behavior by utilizing big data-based artificial intelligent innovations. Knowledge of tourist tracks is used for the development of tourism destinations so that there is an optimization of competitiveness factors in a sustainable manner.

Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and social development ( Marchese, 2009 ; Lewis, 2008 ; Adams et al. , 2006 ). Research to understand the complex nature and management of innovation processes is essential for tourism stakeholder (academician, business, community and government). The application of intelligent technology based on big data also requires policy innovation. Policies that prioritize expediency, legal certainty and justice will be more quickly absorbed and practiced on a massive scale. As much as possible, the policy is at its highest rank because of its cross-sectoral and institutional arrangements. This can be carried out if the region building an institution destination management organization (DMO). Destination management and other stakeholders can formulate policy innovations in an effort to optimize the potential competitiveness factors of destinations in their respective region. This implementation can be implemented through the DMO approach. DMO is a tourism governance forum in areas whose economic activity is dominated by the tourism sector as well as tourism activities in ecotourism destination.

ecological tourism trends


ecological tourism trends

Simulation model of the performance of destination competitiveness, performance of implementing ecotourism elements and data on foreign tourist visits

ecological tourism trends

Graphic simulation of the competitiveness of destination and ecotourism element in the existing model of the region outside of Java and Bali cluster

ecological tourism trends

Graphic simulation of the competitiveness of destination and ecotourism element in the existing model of the region Java cluster

ecological tourism trends

Graphic simulation of the competitiveness of destination and ecotourism element in the existing model of the region Bali cluster

ecological tourism trends

The accuracy of the cluster model for region outside Java and Bali

ecological tourism trends

The accuracy of the cluster model for region Java

ecological tourism trends

The accuracy of the cluster model for region Bali

ecological tourism trends

The simulations graphic of changes in the number of foreign tourist visits in the cluster area outside Java and Bali

ecological tourism trends

The simulation graphic of changes in the number of tourist visits in the model simulation in the Java region cluster

ecological tourism trends

The simulation graph of changes in the number of tourist visits in the model simulation in the Bali region cluster

ecological tourism trends

Comparative graphic of changes in growth of foreign tourists visit in the all cluster area

ecological tourism trends

Comparative graphic of changes in growth of revenue tourism in the all cluster area

Model structure validation of elements of ecotourism and destination competitiveness

Validation of tourist visit performance for all clusters

Model simulation and tourism performance

Note(s): Existing model: The existing model is built based on the performance factors of the application of ecotourism elements and the competitiveness of the destination.

Scenario model 1: The model is built based on model control factors (big data-based artificial intelligence technology), which is integrated with the performance of implementing ecotourism elements.

Scenario model 2: The model is built based on the model control factor (big data-based artificial intelligence technology), which is integrated with the performance of the application of ecotourism elements and attributes of destination competitiveness

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ecological tourism trends


With the development of tourism, the number of tourists and the scope of tourism activities are increasing, and the impact of tourism on the ecological environment is gradually revealed. The ecological environment is the foundation of sustainable tourism development. Some tourist destinations lack systematic and scientific evaluation and the proper planning of tourism resources, which makes it difficult for local areas to cope with the influx of a large number of people. In these destinations, the internal system is perturbed by a series of disturbances, which leads to bad effects on the local ecological environment. In addition to endangering the development of tourism, the quality of life of local residents is also threatened. Consequently, the issues between tourism and environment have become a hot topic in the field of tourism research. Through the collection of domestic and foreign tourism literature related to ecological theories since 1990 to 2020, the status of the application of various ecological theories in the field of tourism is revealed, such as life cycle theory, landscape ecology theory, carrying capacity theory, biodiversity, ecological niche theory and ecological footprint theory. This analysis found that the application of these theories to tourism mainly focuses on empirical research, and there are few studies on the basic theories related to it. In the empirical research, innovation of the research methods is basically absent. Therefore, future research should pay more attention to the theoretical research of ecological theory in the field of tourism, and combine modern science and technology in the practical application to strengthen the innovation of research methods. In addition, the prospect of applying ecological theories in future tourism research is discussed.

ecological tourism trends


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20 Ecotourism trends for 2020

Ecotourism trends for 2020

As we enter a new decade, ecotourism or responsible tourism seems to dominate the travel world.  Emerging trends send a positive signal of the growing awareness in ecotourism to create lesser travel impacts. There has been a major shift in values and approaches among travelers that are contributing to sustainability in tourism.

The sharp rise in eco-consciousness in global travelers is expected to create interesting ecotourism trends in 2020 , way different from what we have seen in the past. Thanks to various government and non-governmental initiatives and digital social media for spreading awareness so fast.

20 Ecotourism trends in 2020

Flight shaming.

Train bookings

Lean season travel

People are shunning crowds. Responsible Travel reports of higher chances of off season and shoulder season bookings offered by travel companies. It will also serve the purpose to curb overtourism, a growing trend in responsible tourism. Destinations and tourists both are in the lookout for fewer crowds and off season travel can be the best way to enjoy a tranquil holiday. With prices dropping drastically in off season, tourists can make great budget holidays.

Surge in eco-friendly travel choices

Surge in eco-friendly travel choices

More preferences for unique experiences

Expect the must-see approach to take a backseat. Traveling is no longer visiting iconic marvels and places but more of experiencing things unique to a particular place. Travelers are taking the road less travelled. According to booking.com, 51% of travelers are willing to switch over to lesser known destinations for more unique experiences creating less environmental impact.

In comes micro-adventures


Curb in single-use plastics

Growing use of single-use plastics is upsetting the sustainability in tourism. Nepal is seriously thinking of banning plastic bottles and other single use plastics. Reflecting this stance, organizations in larger numbers are opting reusable materials in accommodations and establishments. Travelers are also following the steps. Increasingly, they are switching to sustainable alternatives in traveling, packaging and shopping. Multi-use water bottles, cups and glasses, napkins and towels instead of tissues are finding more usage as must-carry travel accessories.

Traveling off the beaten track


Focus on zero-waste

One of the noticeable ecotourism trends in 2020 is to focus on zero-waste. It is not only single-use plastic waste but also food waste that is creating a huge wastage burden on the planet. Hotels and restaurants are taking initiatives in composting, smart supply chain management adopting farm-to-table concept, encouraging tourists in proper ordering of food and others.

Green transport to get around

Green transport to get around

Women empowerment

MeToo movement has brought women issues at the forefront. It is influencing sustainability in tourism as well. A growing number of travelers are eager to support the local women they come across in their trips. Bookings of women-owned accommodations and restaurants are on the rise. Tourists are also extending their cooperation by purchasing local merchandise and souvenirs created and sold by women. Many tour operators have specially designed packages supporting women empowerment.

Influence of social issues on destination selection

destination selection

Safaris and natural reserves to top the bucket list

Safaris and natural reserves are opening up more camps and temporary accommodations allowing this experience more accessible to tourists. Being cognizant of the preservation standards of local flora and fauna, most of them work with locals and communities to ensure all positive impacts of tourism nothing negative.

Shunning animal rides

elephant safaris are hugely popular in Asian destinations

Tourists might feel that it is taking animals closer to nature in reality, it is not.  It is unnatural to keep an animal confined and regular interaction with human beings impacts its animal instincts negatively. They may not be willing to go back to their natural habitats. The same holds for using animals for entertainment as in zoos.

Preference for green accommodation

Green-accommodation or eco-accommodation is finding more takers among eco-conscious travelers even if they come with a higher price tag. Tourists are happily obliging this fact as long as it supports sustainability parameters.

Providers are also coming up with various eco-friendly options ranging from budget green stays to high-end luxurious ones. Their initiatives involve the use of biodegradable products, plastic free stay, solar energy, water management, recycling facilities and green transport.

Nature-based menus

Nature-based menus

Restoring the green

Sustainable tourism in 2020 will see more of rewilding. You may not be aware of the term but this is a trend that is sprouting all over. Tourism businesses are getting involved in restoring landscapes and animal species which were either exterminated or driven out. It would not be surprising to see more of these initiatives in Australia where massive bushfire has led to mass destruction of indigenous flora and fauna. This could be a significant movement impacting the environment with travelers and tour companies both joining hands in rewilding.

Fight against mass extinction

Fight against mass extinction

Check on greenwashing

How do you know that products and services marketed extensively are sustainable as they are supposed to be?  Greenwashing is a growing trend where green credentials are exaggerated to make them greener than they are in reality. It is a rising concern that will make consumers disillusioned and skeptical which will deviate them from eco-tourism derailing the growth of sustainable tourism.

Marketing green labels and accreditations

opting for solar energy

Travel sites are listing Green Hotels mentioning their green credentials, ratings and certificates. To keep up with the growing trends of ecotourism, expect enhanced marketing of green label and accreditations.

Activities to negate the environmental impact

Booking.com survey finds 86% of global tourists are willing to engage in different activities to cut down negative environmental impact. It could be beach cleaning, putting up suitable waste bins, marketing and selling biodegradable products and consciously choosing plastic-free green accommodations. Plastic waste crisis has surged alarmingly in the last couple of years. Of 8.3 billion tonnes plastics produced, 6.3 billion turned to waste, reveals a 2017 study.

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5 Sustainable Tourism Trends that you Must Know

ecological tourism trends

Tourism is always evolving and for all operators in the sector it is essential to know the new trends so as to anticipate the wishes of future customers and align their offer accordingly. The beginning of the new decade has certainly shocked our world, but it has nevertheless confirmed our desire to travel , and the will to do it in a sustainable way.

But what are the sustainable tourism trends? How will tourists who want to save the world travel in the coming years? Let’s find out together!

1. sustainability as a lifestyle.

Sustainability is more and more important for tourists

Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a lifestyle embraced by more and more people. We witness every day the consequences of man’s actions on the environment and we become increasingly aware that the only possibility to save our planet is to change, even in our way of experiencing tourism. In 2030, tourists around the world will in fact be 1.8 billion every year and global emissions related to the sector are set to increase. According to a study by the University of Sydney, they will grow by 4% every year . This is also why more and more people want to travel green : if in 2016 62% of travelers wanted to stay in an eco-sustainable hotel, now it is 73% who want to do so ( Sustainable Travel Report Booking.com 2019 ).

2. More and more guests in electric cars

electric car

In Norway 50% of cars are already electric and worldwide sales of electric vehicles continue to increase exponentially. As a result, travelers traveling with electric vehicles are also growing. And they are going to choose their destination also considering the presence of charging stations . It is a challenge and an opportunity for both localities and accommodation facilities. By choosing to offer a recharging service for electric vehicles in your hotel , you can help to combat climate change, attract new customers thanks also to EVs maps, reach a target of aware travelers who are usually willing to spend more than the average tourists, take advantage of financing, increase the competitiveness of your accommodation and position yourself as an innovative company.

3. Slow tourism and Cycling tourism

Cycling tourism is one of the new tourism trends

The watchword of the new tourism trends is: slow down . More and more travelers want to travel with slower means of transportation to reduce their environmental impact and to enjoy every moment of the trip. According to our recent survey, bikes that are available free for guests in the hotel they are more popular than the wellness center. Electric bikes have contributed to the success of cycling in recent years, making longer and more challenging trails accessible to all. In the coming years, tourists will prefer the accommodations that offer a reinforced breakfast, both sweet and savory, the possibility of recharging the batteries of the e-bikes , a small workshop for the repair and washing of bicycles and hosts available to advise and indicate itineraries in the surroundings .

4. Experiences, experiences, experiences!

Experiential tourism, a new tourism trend

Travelers are no longer looking for tourist products, but authentic experiences that are hard to find elsewhere. Experiential tourism continues to assert itself and is destined to become an important trend in sustainable tourism. When we travel we want to be the protagonists of every moment. We we want to learn something new, to know the locals and their traditions. Tourists try to live unforgettable activities that involve all the senses. This also explains the success that the Alberghi Diffusi are having. It’s a type of hospitality that revives the abandoned villages in Italy. And your hotel sell rooms or experiences?

5. Digital Detox and immersion in nature

Digital Detox

We constantly use social media , the internet and never forget our phone at home. And now more and more people feel the need to detox from the web, at least on vacation. Digital Detox holiday is an ever growing tourism trend. Tourists want to experience some off-grid days, connected only with nature, trying experiences such as “ Forest Bathing “. There are indeed many studies that show that a few hours of immersion in the green are enough to recover your psycho-physical well-being .

Is your accommodation ready to host the travelers of the new decade?

Cover photo ©  Joshua Earle  via  Unsplash

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    If you talk of sustainable tourism in 2020, you will find travelers more inclined to eco-friendly choices be it accommodation, travel, food and other utilities. Sustainable travel trends report Green hotels and lodges are seeing increased bookings. Travel slow or shared travel is getting preference.

  21. Sustainable Travel Trends 2023

    52% inform their purchase decisions based on a brand's eco-credentials (The Drum, July 2021). Given this shift in demand, the rise in organisations wanting to appear eco-friendly is jumping. But, "the same consumers who look for socially conscious brands are becoming hyper-conscious of superficial virtue-signalling"*****

  22. Tackling environmental and economic challenges: the tourism industry is

    The global travel and tourism industry faces new challenges as it gathers at the annual World Travel Market trade event in London. Extreme weather events, economic and geopolitical uncertainty ...

  23. 5 Sustainable Tourism Trends that you Must Know

    3. Slow tourism and Cycling tourism. The watchword of the new tourism trends is: slow down. More and more travelers want to travel with slower means of transportation to reduce their environmental impact and to enjoy every moment of the trip. According to our recent survey, bikes that are available free for guests in the hotel they are more ...

  24. Top Three Travel Trends for 2023

    Sustainable travel packages - accounting for adventure, culture and heritage, eco-tourism and wellness - are forecast to amount to USD134 billion in 2023, and the larger share of overall packages compared to typical mass-market products like sun and sea.