Millions of people fly every day. Where are they going to, and why?
Travelers at an airport or tourist destination represent a cross-section of humanity. The demographics at a large international airport include various ages, cultures and languages. They come from different educational backgrounds and socio-economic status. Are they returning from a trip, or embarking on a vacation to an exotic destination? Are they travelling for business, or visiting a distant friend or family member?
While leisure and business travel are very common, there are several other types of travel. These include ecotourism, volunteer travel, educational/cultural tourism, faith-based travel and transportation for those visiting a loved one.
Ecotourism is becoming more mainstream. Those in search of pristine and undisturbed environments prefer that the popularity of their destination doesn’t result in it being overpopulated by tourists. These travelers don’t want to leave an imprint, and strive to make a low impact to the fragile natural environments they visit. They seek the off-the-beaten path open spaces and prefer to avoid typical commercial resorts and tourist traps.
Ecotourism is predominant in destinations such as Alaska, Africa, Costa Rica, Antarctica, the Amazon Rain Forest, Australia and the Galapagos Islands. There are countless other locations on all seven continents.
Volunteer Tourism describes a trend where people travel to a destination to offer needed assistance with projects or humanitarian efforts. Nearly 2 million people per year choose to leave their flip-flops and beach towels at home in favor of the opportunity to help make a difference in distant communities.
I was personally involved with a group of volunteers that sent donated bicycles to Uganda and South Africa. While I was unable to travel with the bikes, I communicated with the locals where the bikes were distributed. We - Bicycles for Humanity - purchased the shipping container that the bikes, spare parts and tools were sent in. The shipping containers were left in remote regions of those countries and converted into bike shops where a team of volunteers trained the locals in bike mechanics.
There are other local travel volunteer groups, such as The Giving Circle, which has several projects and causes. Another local group, Seeds for Peace, sends vegetable and flower seeds to needed communities around the world. There are countless travel volunteer opportunities that include farming, education, building, medical and environmental projects.
Educational travel is very common for college and high school students but this theme can appeal to travelers of any age. School clubs often offer students the opportunity to have cultural exchanges and learn firsthand of the regions of the world that they studied in the classroom. Educational tourists are able to embed in the local culture and learn while exploring museums, history, language and the arts. Any destination has the potential to be an educational vacation.
Faith-based, or religious travel can include volunteer service projects as well as educational pilgrimages to holy lands. Spiritually motivated tourists may travel with large church groups, but many choose to tour in smaller private groups, or as individuals. Top destinations include Vatican City, Greece, Israel and Jordan, India Temples, Buddhist sites in China, and Mayan ruins in Mexico or Central America.