It’s that time of the year again, the summer holidays are here and with travel restrictions finally eased across the globe, wanderlust is in the air. However, as people start to think about and plan their summer vacation, the travel industry is seeing a new growing trend in vacation destinations among the younger generation – nature-based tourism.

As the name highlights, nature-based tourism centres around outdoor travel environments or around places of natural beauty and usually involves participating in adventurous activities such as mountain climbing or more relaxing activities like hiking, stargazing and taking wildlife tours. This kind of travel has become more popular in recent years as it offers the younger generation an escape from busy cityscapes and the constant connected buzz of everyday life.

This trend is likely to continue to grow in a post-pandemic world wherein travellers are craving wide open spaces after being cooped up inside for so long, are looking for holiday trips that are closer to home due to economic constraints, and as the younger generation shift towards adopting more sustainable lifestyles.

“It should really come as no surprise that the most socially and environmentally conscious generations of younger tourists, millennials and Gen Zers, are increasingly gravitating towards nature travel which presents them with a way to positively interact with the world around them while also gaining that sense of peace, relaxation, and the chance to discover new experiences that we all look for from a vacation away,” says Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel.

Travel destinations like the Kruger Gate Hotel, situated just 100 metres from the entrance of the enchanting Kruger National Park, is a nature-loving tourist’s dream destination as it offers travellers a haven away from home (and most importantly away from the crowds). It’s nestled in the midst of some of South Africa, and the world’s most beautiful natural assets. From the country’s iconic wildlife, such as the Big Five, majestic rivers and waterfalls, and vast forest canopies to unique outdoor experiences,  nature-based destinations present the younger generation with tremendous value. As a result, establishments such as Kruger Gate Hotel are also seeing a sharp increase in the number of extended visits.

“Over the course of this year, we have found that guests are booking longer stays with us, taking us from an average visit of two nights to four nights. We believe that this stems from the fact that our property is more than just a hotel and that it offers exactly what travellers of all generations are looking for right now in a world emerging from a pandemic. It is a destination within itself with a host of activities, catering to  guests of all sizes, ages and interests. This trend is great news for our team, as it indicates that we’re finally able to compete with the popular holiday destinations of Cape Town and Durban, while being able to use our natural environment to appeal to the next generation of traveller” Gillis shares.

This next-generation traveller wants more to their travel experience. They want a travel experience that is good for the environment as well as good for them as the traveller.

“Nature-based travel destinations don’t only offer tourists the opportunity to connect with the wonder of the world around them and experience it in its most raw and relatively untouched-by-the-world state, they can also be a powerful tool in engaging young tourists – who often previously opted for travel to tropical beaches and party hotspots – in helping to ensure the resilience and sustainability of local communities and domestic tourism,” he adds.

Benefits attached to nature-based tourism include environmental, economic, social and even health-related benefits for those individuals who participate in this form of travel. In fact, it can play a big role in driving funding and support for the conservation and restoration of these vast areas of wilderness and natural beauty. It can empower the communities which surround them by contributing to employment and the growth of local economies, and enable the protection of local wildlife. Additionally on a more personal level, spending time in nature can greatly reduce stress and anxiety, improving both mental and physical wellbeing.

The hospitality industry has witnessed significant growth in demand for sustainable tourism products and services, as young travellers pursue experiences that enable them to engage in local cultures, foods and environments. They are also  increasingly interested in seeing better benefits for local communities.

“This growing trend offers a unique opportunity to recover from the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and build back local tourism sectors in a more sustainable way that will ensure they survive any future disruptions,” concludes Gillis.