Two terms describe the growing trend that combines physical activity with environmental exploration and stewardship: sport tourism and ecotourism. Both are growing industries across Canada. Sport tourism refers to travel which involves either observing or participating in a sporting event while staying apart from the tourists’ usual environment. Sport tourism is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equates to a significant economic impact. Ecotourism is a type of nature-based tourism that emphasizes reducing or eliminating your environmental impact.

Sport tourism events play a vital role in enhancing the overall tourism infrastructure of a destination and can benefit the economy. According to Sport Tourism Canada, in 2019, tourism related to sport and recreation contributed $7.4 billion ($4.1 billion from domestic visitors and $3.3 billion from international visitors) to the Canadian economy. Sporting events attract visitors willing to spend, generate media coverage, and promote the destination’s image domestically and globally.

Ecotourism seeks to protect natural areas by incentivizing their preservation. It can include hiking, camping, birdwatching, going on safari, surfing, or even simple nature walks. There are two types of ecotourism:

  • Soft ecotourism is typically more accessible. It requires less physical exertion, less disconnection from civilization, and is typically accessed through an ecotourism-based business or a government agency. Soft ecotourism provides a relatively effortless way to experience nature. Soft ecotourism can be as simple as going for a stroll in your nearest park and watching the birds and plants.
  • Hard ecotourism involves immersing oneself in nature, often without the amenities and services we typically depend on in society. This form of ecotourism demands greater self-sufficiency and physical conditioning, akin to primitive camping in remote, unsupervised wilderness areas.

Ecotourism does not always lead to positive outcomes; it can sometimes result in environmental harm and interfere with local or Indigenous customs.

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