Tourism is becoming one of the world’s largest industries. And, as it continues to become an even more important part of Alaska’s economy, so too will the need to protect the very things visitors come to see and appreciate: mountains, glaciers, forests, oceans, wildlife and authentic communities. The challenge, then, will be to manage development and growth of the industry so that tourism continues to provide benefits to both urban and remote communities, while conserving Alaska’s great resources.
In other tourism destinations, particularly outside the United States, concerned tourism businesses and travelers have addressed this challenge by promoting the concept of sustainable tourism or “ecotourism.” Sustainable tourism may be defined as travel to natural areas that is beneficial to local economies, respectful of the environment and sensitive to indigenous cultures.
Sustainable tourism has enjoyed a healthy increase in public awareness and popularity. However, in practice it has sometimes become lost among other forms of tourism and has been unable to carve out more than a small share of the global tourism market. Without a marketing edge, or significant marketing resources, sustainable businesses, often smaller-sized businesses, do not always get public recognition for their actions.
AGA encourages travelers to patronize sustainable businesses and provides an economic incentive for other businesses to improve their operations. As interest in sustainable tourism gains momentum in the marketplace, it’s this type of differentiation that will drive a unique niche of travelers to AGA certified tourism businesses.
The relaunch of the AGA program by ATIA brings with it many new resources and opportunities, including a greater marketing reach to out of state consumers interested in supporting tourism companies with a sustainable business model.