Dive tourists will from now on increasingly “vote with their wallets” and lean towards those businesses and brands committed to preserving ocean ecosystems – according to a new online survey.
To do that, however, they require more transparency about what is and what is not “sustainable” practice in dive operations, says the survey organiser Reef-World Foundation, the UK charity responsible for the Green Fins eco-training programme.
Also read: Top Green Fins dive-centre is on Malapascua
The survey appears to underscore the reason for Reef-World’s existence – a growing need for greater environmental awareness and education among both dive professionals and their customers.
Designed, it says, to help the diving industry bounce back from the Covid pandemic without compromising sustainability, the poll was conducted from April to June this year. It elicited more than 2,400 responses from dive tourists as well as dive professionals and business-owners.
Among the dive pros, 82% said they considered reef protection more important than guest experience. And while 44% of them felt it was easy for divers to tell whether or not a business was committed to sustainable practices, 85% of dive tourists said that they found this difficult to do.
83% of the tourists said they were seeking more education on protecting marine life, and 76% expressed a willingness to pay more for assured sustainability. Perhaps surprisingly at a time of financial pressures, 64% claimed that sustainability was their main consideration when booking travel.
Across the board, the younger the respondent the more engaged they tended to be with environmental protection.
“This survey has highlighted some really encouraging trends,” said Reef-World director Chloe Harvey. “The Gen Z and Millennials, those with the biggest buying power today and tomorrow, are seeking out experiences that align with their sustainability values. They are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings and are wanting to educate themselves and be involved in meaningful environmental activities while on holiday.
“This is so positive for both the industry and the environment upon which it is built. It’s given us a sneak peek into the future of marine tourism; one where sustainability is no longer a competitive edge, but a minimum requirement.”
Dive tourists might be willing to pay more for sustainability, but at the same time they fear spending more on their holidays and paying towards “greenwashing”, says Reef-World. “The tourism industry needs a brand-conscious, transparent and effective global green label to address that.”
Dive-guides, instructors and business-owners are seeking more education and tools to raise environmental awareness for themselves and their customers, according to Reef-World, with the current deficit representing “the single biggest challenge” to achieving sustainability goals in their workplaces.
The survey results also indicate that an “overwhelming majority” of dive pros think that their employers should do more to protect the environment, joining the guests in calling on marine tourism operators to do better.
They believe that with surrounding ecosystems being the source of their profits, they should be held responsible for their protection.
Green Fins sets out to empower members of the diving industry to reduce pressures on coral reefs by offering practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices such as anchoring, fish-feeding and chemical pollution, as well as providing strategic training, support and resources, says Reef-World. Its survey report can be downloaded here.