Summary of our market study

The ecotourism market, despite being a relatively recent phenomenon, has demonstrated significant growth and potential. In France, there is a high awareness of ecotourism and related concepts, with 75% of the population having heard about it. However, the practice of responsible tourism remains low, at 19%. The French market for ecotourism, making up just 1% of the country's total tourism sector, equates to over $2 billion. Ecotourism's growth was notably influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, which spurred an increase in domestic tourism that tended to be more environmentally and socially conscious. Key players in the market include specialized tour operators, such as Voyageurs du Monde and Double Sens, with the latter providing transparency in pricing—highlighting contributions towards environmental initiatives and local community support.

Regulations play a critical role, with ERP regulations ensuring safety, accessibility, and possibly impacting establishment operations with non-compliance leading to fines or closures. Market segmentation shows a variety of players, from associations like ATR and ATES to tour operators like Terres d’Aventure with a turnover of €74.5 million. The ATR label, setting the benchmark for sustainable practices in tourism, commits its members to significant CO2 offset goals by 2023 and 2025. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the trend towards more responsible and sustainable travel appears to be a lasting one, positioning ecotourism for persistent growth in the years beyond 2020.

Ecotourism Market Trends in France

In recent times, France has seen a noteworthy rise in awareness and interest towards ecotourism and responsible travel categories. The French market has embraced the various facets of responsible tourism, encompassing ecotourism, equitable tourism, solidarity tourism, ethical tourism, and sustainable tourism. Surveys indicate that between 80 and 85% of the French population is familiar with at least one term related to responsible tourism, with ecotourism taking the lead as the most recognized term. Such awareness has a demographic skew towards younger and older age groups, and is notably higher among individuals with over two years of university education and those in higher socio-professional categories.

Despite the high awareness levels, the actual participation in responsible tourism practices is relatively low. Only about one in five French people claims to have embarked on a 'responsible trip,' while a vast majority have never participated in such travel. This reluctance is attributed to the perceived difficulty in organizing responsible journeys, with nearly two-thirds of the population deeming it challenging.

From a cost perspective, more than half of French citizens believe that ecotourism is more expensive than conventional tourism. This deters people from choosing more responsible and environmentally-friendly travel methods despite a growing consciousness around these issues. And yet, the popularity of ecotourism is gaining traction, partly due to shifts brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic which heightened interest in domestic and community-conscious travel.

When it comes to preferences within the realm of responsible tourism, the French population shows a clear inclination towards accommodation that is eco-friendly, like residences powered by sustainable energy or guest rooms in private homes, with camping being the least favorite. The ideal locations for such trips are the countryside, followed distantly by mountains and isolated islands.

Moreover, the French market also shows an appetite for engaging with local culture and sampling local cuisine as part of their ecotourism experience. While the overall market size for ecotourism in France remains small—currently estimated at around 1% of the broader tourism sector, equating to just over $2 billion—there is an expectation of growth. This sentiment is strengthened by the global ecotourism market which is projected to expand significantly by 2027.

On the supply side, specialized tour operators are the main actors driving ecotourism, offering a range of sustainable travel options that tend to be on the higher end in terms of costs. Reports from Double Sens break down these costs showing that a sizable portion goes towards supporting the local economy.

Navigating the Ecotourism Landscape: Key Industry Stewards

The realm of ecotourism is not just a fleeting trend but a blossoming industry that champions sustainable and responsible travel. The main players in this market are driven not solely by commerce but by a commitment to the planet and to communities. Here’s a look at some of the organizations and tour operators leading the way in the French ecotourism sector.

Ecotourism Associations and Organizations: The Compassionate Custodians

  • - ATR (Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable): A pioneering association established in 2004, ATR congregates a variety of stakeholders in the French ecotourism marketplace, from tour operators to custom travel creators. It strives for the promotion of responsible tourism practices and has a membership network that is continually growing.
  • - ATES (Association pour le Tourisme Equitable et Solidaire): Formed closely on the heels of ATR, ATES expands on a similar vision but places a stronger emphasis on the social dimensions of tourism. It focuses on equitable relationships with local communities and sustainable development through travel.
  • - Both organizations symbolize the conscientious shift toward a tourism model that deeply considers environmental footprints and the local socioeconomic milieu.

Tour Operators: Curators of Conscientious Journeys

  • Voyageurs du Monde: Distinguished for curating bespoke travel experiences, this high-end operator takes pride in crafting vacations that are not only luxurious but also mindful of the environment. They offer an array of eco-friendly destinations, tempting the eco-conscious traveler with rich, local encounters.
  • - Terres des Andes: Another premium operator that specializes in integrating cultural immersion with ecological travel. Their itineraries in regions like Argentina reflect a commitment to authenticity and sustainable tourism.
  • - Double Sens: Positioned more accessibly in terms of pricing, Double Sens provides travelers with opportunities to explore places like Senegal in a manner that is both enriching and responsible. They focus on community interaction and ensuring that travel benefits reach local spheres.
  • - Passion Terre: Offers a varied palette of travel experiences that allow tourists to engage deeply with destinations like Nepal. They underscore the transformative power of travel when undertaken with a philosophy of care for the environment.
  • - Chamina Voyages: This mid-range operator also facilitates eco-trips across various terrains. Their forays into places like Norway imbue the spirit of adventure with a consciousness of the terrain's ecological sensitivity. 
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Summary and extracts

1 Market summary

1.1 Définition du marché

L'écotourisme est une forme de tourisme durable axée sur la découverte de la nature avec un faible impact sur l'environnement et bénéfique pour les populations locales, intégrant ainsi une dimension éthique et éco-citoyenne. Il se veut une réponse durable au tourisme de masse, qui continue à se développer sans prendre conscience des risques qu'il représente pour l'environnement. L'écotourisme englobe donc plusieurs concepts et présente une grande variété d'offres : activités touristiques éco-responsables, hébergements responsables (éco-hôtels, éco-lodges, éco-villages), voyages réfléchis, etc.

En France, ce type de tourisme respectueux de l'écosystème est soutenu par l'Association française d'écotourisme depuis 2005 et l'Association des voyageurs et tour-opérateurs éco-responsables depuis 2007. Il est progressivement devenu un véritable phénomène de société et n'est plus réservé aux militants écologistes ou aux personnes sensibilisées à la question.

Première destination touristique mondiale, le potentiel écotouristique de la France n'est pas négligeable : parmi les principales régions écotouristiques françaises, on trouve le parc naturel des Causses du Quercy en région Midi-Pyrénées, la vallée de la Tarentaise en région Rhône-Alpes et la Côte de Granit rose en Bretagne.

Bien qu'en constante augmentation ces dernières années notamment suite à la pandémie, l'écotourisme ne représente encore qu'une faible fraction du marché touristique français (environ 1%). Néanmoins, le secteur profite d'une belle embellie et la croissance du marché mondial sera soutenue dans les 5 prochaines années avec une croissance annuelle moyenne de 16,1%.

Pourtant, même si les Français semblent plutôt prêts à adopter un comportement d'éco-consommateur en vacances, ils sont en fait encore une minorité à avoir réellement opté pour une offre de tourisme vert. Ainsi, malgré son fort potentiel de croissance, l'écotourisme a encore du mal à s'implanter en France, en raison de sites et d'espaces naturels protégés peu adaptés, ainsi que de mécanismes de gestion et d'aménagement encore fragiles.

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Connaissance des termes relatifs au tourisme responsable
  • Connaissance des termes relatifs au tourisme responsable, par âge
  • Connaissance des termes relatifs au tourisme responsable, par niveau d'éducation
  • Environmental awareness
  • Sondage : "Avez-vous déjà voyagé de manière 'responsable' ?"
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Latest news

Responsible tourism: FairMoove aims for top spot - 20/09/2023
  • FairMoove plans to acquire Betterfly Tourism and Double Sens for a total of 5.6 million euros.
  • Double Sens currently generates sales of 2 million euros, but is expected to generate 30 million euros over the next few years
  • . FairMoove expects to be profitable as early as next year.
  • FairMoove is targeting sales of 15 million euros.
Responsible tourism website FairMoove opens its capital to the public. - 25/05/2022
  • Launch in August 2021 of the responsible tourism website FairMoove.
  • Founders bring together professional investors.
  • Sales forecast of 100 million euros in 2026.
  • Expected to break even in 2024.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Voyageurs du Monde Groupe
ATR (Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable)
ATES (Association pour le Tourisme Equitable et Solidaire)
Terres d’Aventure
Chamina Voyages
Double Sens
Terres des Andes
Passion Terre
Terres Nomades
Voyager Autrement
Cap France

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