The concept of alternative tourism evolved in the late 1970s when mass tourism reached its consolidation point; in fact it is a response to the effect of mass tourism and a pursuit for adventure. It involves tourism activities that respect local values, nature and building up experiences by favouring encounters. It generally involves co-existing with people, travelling at minimum costs, doing small craft work and using traditional stores. The contribution of alternative tourism to the economic development of a particular region is little and narrow; however, the socio cultural impact on the host populations are reflected on a bigger scale as the tourists or the travellers bring along foreign ideas and fashions such as new lifestyles, clothing, drug use, foreign recreational activities etc.
Conversely, there are areas that are developed by tourism and were identified by tourists as areas with higher potential, namely areas like the Mediterranean cost, Macaronesia, the Caribbean and South East Asian regions, where some of the travellers settled and also own businesses. The fundamental idea of alternative tourism is that the tourists should have a genuine experience of the local culture, people, nature or a combination of these. Alternative tourism is practised in areas having low population. This concept includes active tourism and encounter and exploratory tourism. Ecotourism, adventure tourism, ethnic tourism, volunteer tourism, responsible tourism, nature tourism, rural tourism and cultural tourism are some of the trending names used for alternative tourism.
Alternative Tourism: Sector Drivers
The concept of alternative tourism and its forms reduce the adverse effects of conventional or mass tourism. Some forms of alternative tourism dissolve the industry effect that has developed under western influence and some forms aim to develop new and special markets that emerged due to global trade shifts in different countries. Thereby, alternative tourism can be assumed as an adaptation to conventional tourism and is also observed as the vision of the future of the tourism industry. The new paradigm of sustainable development is closely related to alternative tourism and is accepted by NGOs and governments alike. Added government support pushes this concept to new heights.
The adoption of this type of tourism is mainly due to the awareness amongst travellers or tourists as they understand the essence of exploration and gaining experience of various types of situations along with enjoying the scenic beauty and learning traditions and exploring different cultures. Ecotourism has gained sufficient exposure due to the advent of alternative tourism. Slow yet possible economic benefits, environmental safety, development of rural areas, preserving old traditions and customs, exploring different architectural remains of historic importance, involvement of localities in project developments, etc., are some of the essential traits of alternative tourism. These aspects contribute to the growth of the alternative tourism sector.
Alternative Tourism: Sector Challenges
There are certain limitations in alternative tourism that hinder sector growth. Certain challenges faced by this form of tourism are – economic problems and imposing regulations in certain areas that cause problems to tourists; enterprises promoting alternative tourism are subsidised by the government, which encourages corruption; certain spots favouring agro-tourism do not reflect the essence of alternative tourism and may include activities similar to those in mass tourism; and limitations related to ecotourism spots as they necessarily depend upon facilities provided for accommodation of the tourists.
Alternative Tourism: Regional Analysis
Spain and Greece, two countries that suffered the bad effects of mass tourism, are adopting alternative tourism at large. Though small economies, Croatia and Slovenia are striving to position themselves in the global tourism sector as destinations for alternative tourism. They are promoting different alternative tourism types, especially ecotourism. Slovenia has adopted a mixed model – a model coupling mass and alternative tourism types. Small eastern European economy Bulgaria is following the footsteps of Slovenia and Croatia and is promoting sustainable tourism. The importance of the alternative tourism sector and its forms is growing in different Asian and American countries.
Alternative Tourism: Travel Agents
There are travel agencies that assist with alternative travel. Amphitrion Group, Eco Action, Meli Tours, Blue Aegean and G Adventures are the notable ones.
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Alternative Tourism Sector Overview
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