If you love travel, meeting new people, and educating travelers on the aspects of sustainable travel and ecotourism, then this green business idea might be the one you’re looking for. The trends for traveling and tourism is leaning toward more experiential and diverse experiences, and less toward group tours and mass travel experiences, so starting an ecotourism business is one way to help people get the travel experiences they desire, while making a living and making a difference.
1. What is an ecotourism and sustainable travel planner?
The concept of this green business idea is similar to travel agents in the traditional sense. In a nutshell, you help people plan their vacations. In an ecotourism business, however, you can guide travelers to an eco-friendly trip and introduce them to ecotourism destinations that they may not otherwise be aware of.
Sustainable travel and ecotourism might include some alternative forms of transportation that have lower carbon footprints, more ecotours, travel to sustainable agriculture destinations, human-powered trips such as bike touring or backpacking, National Parks and other wilderness preserve destinations, and visits to places like Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Iceland that traditionally rank very well in national sustainability indexes. You have the opportunity to appeal to a growing spirit of sustainable learning too by sending eager learners on adventures on the farm as agri-tourists, or to eco-municipalities where communities adopt sustainable practices from top to bottom.
2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?
There are no formal educational or training requirements for becoming an ecotourism and sustainable travel planner. You will need to be organized, a diligent planner, a good ‘people’ person, a terrific listener, a great communicator, an avid traveler, and a gung-ho advocate for sustainable travel principles, ecotourism, and sustainable learning (see Sustainable Travel International‘s website for an introduction, or Ecotourism’s certification page). Knowing another language is a big plus, as is knowledge about the relevant environmental issues at destinations you plan for people.
3. How much money is required to start?
$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) Access to a computer is a must, and having an office space, even if it’s in your own home, will give you a home base. You may want to invest in some basic marketing and sales courses, as well as a website to showcase your offerings.
4. What is the income potential?
$$-$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) The ecotourism and sustainable travel industry is expected to grow strongly over the next couple of years, and an income in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 is a reasonable assumption.
5. What is the best location for this business?
Urban (best), semi-urban (very good), suburbs (good), rural (fair/poor).
6. Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):
- Do you LOVE to travel?
- Do you enjoy ecotourism trips, and understand what makes ecotours different than regular tours?
- Are you in a position where you can start a business that might take 10-20 hours per week and not pay very much, at least at the beginning?