Move over “voluntourism” and “staycations” – an increasing number of travellers are packing their bags on a quest to visit the world’s most threatened and rapidly diminishing corners. The phenomenon is dubbed “last chance tourism” (LCT) or “fear of missing out tourism”; think visiting Antarctica’s retreating glaciers or snorkelling over rapidly bleaching coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
A recent study by Annah Piggott-McKellar and Karen McNamara in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism reports that “tourists are seeking travel to the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to see the reef before it’s too late. These tourists – identified as ‘seeking a last chance experience’ – were also found to be more environmentally conscious.” The study found that people were more concerned about environmental factors such as climate change and coral bleaching, and not the impact of increasing tourist numbers – potentially exacerbated by last chance tourism itself.
The “LCT niche tourism market has the potential to have a significant impact on the destinations in which people are travelling to see before they disappear”, say the researchers. Hopefully increasing visitors means that people are more aware of the threats to them, but there is an environmental impact, too.
The growing awareness of climate change has also sparked a resurgence of interest in travel with an environmental focus. “The tourism sector is both a vector and a victim of climate change and we are fully committed to contribute to reach the objectives set by the Paris Agreement,” said UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, at the recent International Symposium of the Sustainable Tourism Programme.
Hotels are now increasingly introducing eco-friendly features; some are even pledging to go carbon neutral. And now many tours focus on sustainable travel as well. Visit ecotourdirectory.com for more than 100 eco-friendly tour operators globally.