In this episode of Business Planet, we head to Barcelona to look at the growing business opportunities connected to sustainable and ethical tourism.
Sustainable tourism or eco-travel is becoming increasingly big business in Europe as conscientious travellers demand more choice.
Travelecoology is a small firm which offers alternative travel routes. It is part of the Wildsea network, a pan-European project which aims to boost ecological tourism by offering more than 20 destinations across Europe. Wildsea is supported by the EU programme, COSME.
"The people who choose ecotourism are generally ready to pay more in order to enjoy activities. That generates more revenue, which allows firms in this sector to hire more qualified staff. It also enables companies to offer tourists a much better travel experience than they would normally be able to offer" Travelecoology's CEO, Julia Vera, says.
The goal of Wildsea Europe is to enable SMEs to become strong enough to compete successfully with the giants of the tourism industry.
In addition to the growth of eco-friendly travel companies, cities and regions are also adapting to the latest demands from travellers to become more sustainable.
Barcelona is one city leading the way. The Managing Director of Catalonia's Tourism Agency, David Font, says a real revolution is taking place in the holiday industry.
"If tourism isn't sustainable it won't have a future. Both the public and private sector, together with our European allies, are working with this in mind. The facts and figures also prove it. Perhaps fewer tourists are visiting our country, but those who are coming are bringing much more money.
''We're working on four key things: a different type of tourism; tourism that can be spread to the rest of the country, tourism that works throughout the year and tourism which is more profitable.
"This strategy aims to make up for the shortfall in traveller numbers. According to our forecast, even though we'll get 2.7 per cent fewer tourists we'll still generate as much as 7 per cent more profit. Thanks to this model we'll also get more entrepreneurs, more SMEs, which can offer more services for travellers and the whole sector. What we want to do is generate more resources, more jobs for our country's travel sector," Font said.
Tourism is key for economic growth, job creation and sustainable development in Europe.
More than 25 million Europeans work in tourism and the sector accounts for 10% of EU GDP.
The challenge is to support the long-term sustainable growth of tourist destinations in the EU, preserve shared natural and cultural assets and ensure quality of life for local communities.
EU funding is available to help get innovative and sustainable business ideas in the tourism sector off the ground.
Through its COSME programme, the EU supports the WILDSEA Europe project - a network of ecotourism operators and destinations working together to bring the best marine and outdoor ecotourism activities in Europe.
The project also aims to empower small, local businesses in coastal communities, support sustainable livelihoods, and preserve marine ecosystems.