AI, Ecotourism and Regenerative Tourism

The Global Tourism Industry

The tourism industry is a wide sector housing many other large-scale sectors such as the transport industry, the hospitality sector, tourist attractions, etc. The industry caters to people in search of new short-term experiences or needs outside of the confines of their typical environment. The reasons for this are varied and may include leisure, business, or health.

In 2021, approximately 421 million people constituted the number of global international tourist arrivals culminating in the industry contributing $5.81 trillion to the global economy. 

The impact of tourism on the labor market is immense as it is said to account for 1 out of every 11 new jobs created globally.

The industry is a popular one despite setbacks suffered in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, its rebound is clear to see as evidenced by data from January 2022 reporting an increase of 18 million visitors, a figure that equals the total rise for the entirety of 2021.

Ecotourism

In simple terms, ecotourism is tourism to natural environments. It encompasses travel via environment friendly means (i.e. sustainable transport) to natural regions, protecting nature and contributing to the quality of life of the people that are native to that region. 

According to Fennell, “Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be low-impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented”

Ecotourism serves many purposes but its core story is the protection of natural destinations for future experience by unborn generations. It seeks to:


i. Generate funds for ecological conservation

ii. Create environmental awareness

iii. Enlighten tourists

iv. Empower the economic development of the inhabitants of treasured sites

v. Protect local cultures

vi. Minimize carbon footprint


Regenerative Tourism

The tourism industry, like other sectors, is in a process of continued evolution. One of the cornerstones of the ongoing evolution is regenerative tourism.  

The concept revolves around the idea of tourism creating a better environment than it meets. This is in contrast to sustainable tourism which seeks to maintain tourist destinations rather than actually improve them.

Regenerative tourism focuses on creating approaches and supporting existing ones for regenerative experiences through shared responsibility between travelers and tourism stakeholders. 

In the context of ecotourism, regenerative tourism can be seen as an important way to guarantee the core objective of ecotourism.

AI’s Role in Regenerative Tourism

As customer demands in the ecotourism industry are evolving and, on the increase (due to technological innovation), ecotourism locations are faced with the sudden problem of adapting to the increased influx of tourists. The challenge is that ecotourism destinations are struggling to innovate and implement ideas, products, and services at the required pace to match rising demands.

To successfully meet these difficulties, stakeholders in ecotourism destinations must lean into utilizing AI and big data in the present to create future solutions. As described by Eddyono (2020), there are three pillars for the management of future ecotourism which are: Big Data, Ecotourism Elements, and Destination Competitiveness.

AI and Big Data use the online footprints of tourists to create a picture of tourist behavior, identify and predict trends and build well laid-out statistics to deliver a high-quality experience to the growing number of tourists. The second element required is the implementation of protection and maintenance standards to preserve the attraction of ecotourism centers. Finally, regional destination competitiveness is important to guarantee the easy accessibility of ecotourism locations to traveling tourists while ensuring that their needs are adequately catered for.

These pillars can guarantee the type of innovative, personalized and thrilling experiences that today’s tourists are in search of.

The Red Sea Development Project

This is perhaps the world’s biggest regenerative tourism project. It is designed to be a luxury sanctuary built around one of the “world’s hidden natural treasures” i.e. Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Coast. The project consists of destination hotels, a world-class international airport, a coastal village and a host of other leisure and entertainment areas.

The project aims to be a leader in environmental regeneration across all phases of planning, construction, and operation. 

Through a set of innovative policies and strategies aided by AI driven strategies, the project seeks to ensure a 30% net conservation benefit over the next 20 years. The region is set to powered by 100% renewable energy derived from the construction of a battery storage facility which will be the largest in the world on completion.

Off-site construction techniques with sustainable products are also being employed to help protect the environment.


Resources

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

Kitchin, R. (2013), “Big data and human geography: opportunities, challenges and risks”, Dialogues in Human Geography, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 262-267.

Jones, J.N., Cope, J. and Kintz, A. (2016), “Peering into the future of innovation management”, Research-Technology Management, Vol. 59 No. 4, pp. 49-58.

WTO (2004), Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations, World Tourism Organization (WTO).

https://www.theredsea.sa/en/destination/sustainability



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