Transnational marketing trends for ecotourism

The SHAPE Report on Transnational Marketing (available in this link) draws primarily from secondary data sources to evaluate potential consumer markets (national and international) to which ecotourism products can be promoted. Taking findings from a wide range of media, and drawing upon the lessons learnt in correlative studies (for example ‘slow adventure’), the report identifies and discusses:

  • Potential national and international consumers.
  • The best means to reach such consumers.
  • Conclusions on branding and marketing-cluster activity

Setting the Context: Global Travel Trends

The following sectoral trends were identified in the research:

  • Sustainable travel, with travellers seeking environmentally conscious options.
  • An increase in the number of solo travellers.
  • Visitors immersing themselves in the destinations they visit.
  • Physical and mental wellness are key motivations for many travellers.
  • More consumers wanting a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Making a country, as a destination, far more compelling than only one or two key places.

Targeting Key Consumer Markets

Europe is well positioned and perceived as a destination for the immersive exploration typified by ecotourism experiences.   According to horizon scanners, retail will continue to be driven by the needs of two prominent generations: baby boomers and millennials.  Baby boomers are characterised as being more affluent consumers with a passion for trying something new and with more time to indulge in slower experiences.  Millennials’ general sense of adventurousness manifests itself in their interest in other exotic cultures, ethnic cuisines and novel activities often in remote places.  Therefore, millennials are good at driving tourism to less visited areas, that other generations start to follow.

Effectively Reaching Ecotourism Consumers

Research suggests that ecotourism products should be promoted with the following in mind:

Guided Experiences

  • The expertise of guides is a high value component of a guided trip and their knowledge of the landscape, environment and history can contribute much to the customer experience.
  • Guides need to allow participants time and opportunity to (self-)reflect in nature.
  • Opportunities should be found for sharing the stories of the day around a bar in the evenings. Such stories, augmented by photos, are likely to find their way onto social media sites.

More Demanding Consumers

  • ‘Value’ is an increasingly important notion: not ‘cheap’, but good value for money.
  • Consumers have increasingly high expectations and becoming more discerning, in terms of, for example, accessing information and the ability to book instantly and painlessly.
  • It may be worthwhile looking at collaborating with food or accommodation providers for example, in order to create high-quality ecotourism packages.
  • Similarly, augmenting a package with elements that cater for health and wellbeing can add value.

Effective Promotion

  • A shift away from ’what there is to do’ as an advertising message, to ‘how it makes me feel’.
  • Make more imaginative use of stories to sell products.
  • Ecotourists are likely to believe in the power of word-of-mouth and urge others such as family and friends to give it a go.
  • This is further supported by the enthusiastic embrace of social media platforms, which provide generally credible, free and effective marketing.

The Importance of Place

  • Consumers are looking for uniqueness and ecotourism products should be created that they cannot experience so easily at home.
  • The linking of the food and drink consumed back to the landscape or seascape through which customers have just travelled.
  • The promotion of ‘authentic’, rewarding and high-quality experiences in beautiful landscapes and with a strong cultural element.
  • And bad or cooler weather can be a point of difference for consumers – it has helped to shape both the landscapes and the lives of communities.


For more details, read the full report.