During the unprecedented lockdowns of the global pandemic, cannabis consumption increased across Europe and North America as many people turned to weed to help them could endure the long periods of isolation.
In comparison to recent years, many people are no longer viewing the plant as harmful to them and are starting to realise the potential benefits of cannabis consumption.
This has seen a rise in bud-seekers booking trips to where the consumption of cannabis is legal, as well as an increase in destinations that are making cannabis more readily available to residents and tourists alike.
Fast growing canna-tourism
According to a new article by Forbes, the cannabis tourism sector is currently estimated to be at $17 billion. And it’s growing rapidly.
During the pandemic, some US states declared cannabis dispensaries as an essential service – while the expansion of cannabis tourism nationwide could further contribute to the acceptance of its use.
However, while there are still some perceived risks involving weed-related tourism, it seems increasingly likely to become another popular sector of the tourism industry.
In the US, more than 19 states have legalised the consumption of recreational cannabis, along with bordering countries Canada and Mexico (Mexico is currently delaying the implementation of new laws). Not too far away in South America, Uruguay is also making plans to allow recreational consumption for tourists following a few years of its legal adult use industry.
Countries across Europe, such as Luxembourg, have also allowed the consumption of personally cultivated cannabis – while countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Ukraine all look set to start trialing the sale of cannabis-based products.
Malaysia has taken massive steps toward the legalisation of recreational cannabis, while Thailand just last week decriminalised recreational cannabis and is allowing sales and personal grows.
Other countries such as Costa Rica and Morocco have also allowed the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Currently, Israel, Spain, Holland, Jamaica, the US and Canada all seem to be popular destinations for cannabis travellers – Spain being home to the largest cannabis trade show in Europe, Spannabis.
And in Portugal, although you’re not legally allowed to buy cannabis, it has been decriminalised since 2001.
Recent studies, carried out by the Cannabis Travel Association (CTAI), found that a typical cannabis traveller doesn’t actually portray a stereotypical stoner. Instead, they found cannabis travellers look exactly the same as any other holiday-maker.
Some of the main findings for both males and females in the study were; millennials or younger (63%), with a college degree (59%), currently employed (82%), and with an average household income of $87,000.
Brain Applegarth, the founder of the CTAI organisation, said:
“By 2025, 50% of travelers in the U.S. are going to be millennials, and their relationship to cannabis consumption is extremely normalized compared to the stigmatized industry leaders of today.”
Until now, cannabis-related tourism seems to have been ignored by many in the industry. Victor Pinho, the co-founder of Emerald Farm Tours, claims they have been leaving “millions of dollars on the table”.
He went on to explain how a typical tourist customer spends between $300 and $400 at his cannabis dispensary, which is about three times more than the locals spend on average.
Considering the risks for tourists
While cannabis tourism seems to be on the the rise, there are still some grey areas regarding the rules and regulations of recreational use by overseas tourists.
Only a few countries that allow recreational use for residents have been clear on the rules for tourists. So this could result in tourists unknowingly breaking the law, potentially landing them in some trouble with the local authorities.
They could also run the risk of getting caught up with local street vendors.
And even though recent studies have found that cannabis can potentially offer pain relief and help with certain mental health conditions, it can also pose a (non-fatal) risk to people who aren’t too familiar with the compound.
Alternatives to the Dutch model
Recent findings by MMGY Travel Intelligence show that 29% of leisure travellers have an interest in cannabis-related tourism.
And this article, based on a study by the Dutch government, found a surge in business across the country’s coffee shops since the start of the pandemic, with 58% of international tourists choosing Amsterdam as their destination because of the opportunity to consume weed.
But many authorities from different countries don’t want to replicate the Dutch model.
The Mayor of Amsterdam doesn’t seem to favour the Dutch approach either, as he accepts plans to move ahead with a coffee shop ban for tourists.
He believes that cannabis tourism in Amsterdam has led to a massive concentration on cannabis coffee shops, and heightened concerns about the use of other hard drugs and organised crime.
“Amsterdam is an international city, and we wish to attract tourists – but for its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions,” Mayor Femke Halsema says.
So, it doesn’t look like anybody is willing to become the “next Amsterdam” just yet.
But, modern business models for cannabis-related tourism are focusing on agri-tourism, with the aim of better educating and entertaining customers through a completely different, unique experience.
With agri-tourism, travelers can choose from a range of activities like:
- City tours
- Cannabis trails/hikes
- Cannabis-infused food and wine tasting
- Yoga retreats
- Farm tours
- “Bud and Breakfasts”
- Accommodation and cannabis combination
Just to name a few.
It could potentially make better a better story to tell your friends and family about, rather than letting hours pass by sitting in a coffee shop, don’t you think?