Incentive Newsline: Ecotourism Lacks Incentive

Groups Show Tepid Interest in Protected Destinations

Eve Sotnak


Eve Sotnak

A major trend in leisure travel, ecotourism has captured the notice of incentive planners but has not yet taken off as a viable incentive option. Few corporations select these trips, and when they do, interest among employees is relatively minor, say industry insiders.

The central problem: Eco-destinations rarely have the infrastructure to provide a luxury experience. For example, Eve Sotnak, senior buyer at Minneapolis-based Carlson Marketing, has not been able to sell cruises to the Galapagos Islands, despite greatly enjoying the trip. “You’re 600 miles off the coast,” she said. “If you’re expecting to find a spa and gourmet food, you’re not going to have it.”

Because these locales are often without major airports, getting to and fro can tack on an extra day on each end. Even within a country like Costa Rica, a popular eco-destination, there are few highways to allow groups to travel easily from luxury resorts to the whitewater rivers and the volcanos. “You might spend six hours in a bus to get there and back,” Sotnak noted. “The irony is, you build too many of those highways and you’re going to destroy the whole point.”

On the other hand, Charles Kropke, managing partner of Dragonfly Expeditions Inc. in Coral Gables, Fla., has seen an explosion of groups looking for half-day eco-activities in South Florida. “We have executives waist-deep in mud,” he said. “People who have not gotten on bicycles in many years are quite willing to do seven to 10 miles.”

Kropke insisted that firms are ready for ecotourism, but mostly in small doses. “They’re looking for something new,” he said. “It’s up to the planner to take a risk.”