TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida continues to see record-breaking tourism numbers, but with all that travel comes the potential for carbon emissions and damage to the environment.
The state’s tourism agency is trying a new approach, targeting eco-tourists.
At the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab about 30 miles southwest of the state’s capital, co-founder Jack Rudloe told us the whole operation would be in serious trouble without a key element.
“Volunteers are critical to Gulf Specimen,” said Rudloe.
Some volunteers are local. Others travel as far as Canada.
“It’s a vacation for them and also in the wintertime the snowbirds get out of the freeze,” said Rudloe.
With a record 68.9 million visitors coming to the Sunshine State in the first half of this year alone, VisitFlorida, the state’s primary tourism agency, has launched a new initiative that could help organizations like the marine lab.
Its new online portal aims to attract eco-tourists, steering them towards volunteer opportunities like the ones at the Marine Lab.
“VisitFlorida is finally moving a little bit off the center of Disney and all of the other great big attractions and Mickey Mouse, to what we really have here in Florida,” said Rudloe.
For those who aren’t ready to commit their vacation time to volunteer, VisitFlorida’s online portal also highlights eco-tourism destinations and tips for reducing your vacation’s carbon footprint.
Conservationists, like Aliki Moncrief with the Florida Conservation Voters, point out when the environment is healthy, so too is Florida tourism.
“Most people come to Florida with an expectation of spending some time outside, spending some time in nature,” said Moncrief.
And teaching green lessons to Florida visitors spreads the ideas across the world when vacationers return home.
To learn more about eco-tourism destinations in Florida, click this link.