The Chicago Journal

Your Gateway to the Heartbeat of Chicago

Redefining Responsible Travel: Steven Garcia’s Impact on Responsible Tourism in Chicago

Steven Garcia's Impact on Responsible Tourism in Chicago

By: Maria Williams

The Windy City has experienced a remarkable surge in tourism in the past years. According to Choose Chicago, 30.7 million domestic and overseas visitors hit the town in 2021, an 86% jump compared to 2020. But while this surge has given the local economy a much-needed boost, it has raised concerns about its environmental impact.

Increased traffic congestion and greater strain on the local community and natural resources are just a few of the sustainability issues Chicago faces today. 

According to Steven Garcia, the founder of Empire Tours and Productions, given the tremendous consequences of over tourism on cities like Chicago, the preservation of resources and cultural heritage has never been more significant, making sustainable tourism practices not only essential but imperative.

Since founding Empire Tours, Garcia has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement in the U.S. Driven by a passion for responsible travel; he has ensured his company would provide visitors with immersive and environmentally-conscious experiences that redefine the way people engage with Chicago’s rich history and culture.

Steven Garcia's Impact on Responsible Tourism in Chicagos


“We have a responsibility to protect the environment that makes Chicago so unique. By doing so, we can ensure future generations will continue to enjoy the city’s beauty.”

The fundamental pillar of Empire Tours’ commitment to sustainable tourism lies in its innovative approach to exploration – walking tours. Compared to traditional transportation modes, walking tours have a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

The slower pace of the tours also minimizes congestion in famous spots, and with fewer vehicles, a reduction in pollution is a natural result. In fact, Garcia reveals that Empire Tours has contributed to a decrease of approximately 5,000 hours of carbon emissions annually.

But, the benefits of walking tours extend beyond environmental considerations. They provide an opportunity for visitors to engage more deeply with the city, its history, and its people. Unlike bus or car tours that drive past landmarks, walking tours allow people to immerse themselves in Chicago’s sights, sounds, and stories.

Steven Garcia's Impact on Responsible Tourism in Chicago


And the stories that Empire Tours offers are more than enticing. Garcia’s Ghosts and Gangsters tour provides a uniquely exhilarating experience by giving visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of the city’s (in)famous mobsters like Al Capone. Through engaging storytelling and thought-provoking narratives, Garcia’s groups are whisked back in time and form intimate connections with Chicago’s once wanted figures.

In Garcia’s own words, “Before you know it, you’re in a movie where you’re both the audience and the star, experiencing the thrill of 1920s and 1930s Chicago.”

Additionally, Empire Tours is committed to partnering up with local, electric-run, and sustainable restaurants through food tours, promoting eco-friendly practices in the culinary industry while allowing tourists to enjoy Chicago’s delectable cuisine.

In an effort to mitigate environmental concerns even further, Empire Tours has plans to go to the next level by introducing another innovative solution – electric boat tours.

As Garcia highlights, conventional boat tours have long been a popular way to explore Chicago’s waterway, but they not only generate noise pollution but also endanger the water ecosystem, disrupting its balance with harmful pollutants. Moreover, these kinds of tours emit carbon dioxide, negatively impacting both human health and the environment.

Steven Garcia


On the other hand, electric boats that will be used by Empire Tours will provide a serene adventure, allowing visitors to better appreciate Chicago’s natural wonders without leaving the city’s nature worse off.

“Electric boats contribute to cleaner waterways by reducing the risk of fuel spills and leaks that can harm the ecosystem,” Garcia adds. With zero direct emissions into the water, the boats will help maintain the pristine condition of Chicago’s lakes and rivers while preserving the natural habitat for marine life.

Empire Tours’ electric boat initiative aligns with the broader efforts to promote sustainable tourism and environmental conservation. By offering tourists a greener alternative to traditional boat tours, the company not only provides an enhanced experience but also encourages visitors to make eco-conscious choices.

Building on the success of their current initiatives, Garcia is actively working toward implementing new sustainable practices and collaborations to further contribute to a greener future.

One of the upcoming initiatives is participating in the carbon credit swapping initiative, where the goal is to offset carbon emissions by planting trees and supporting projects that give back to the environment.

Looking forward, Garcia envisions a future where sustainable tourism becomes the norm in Chicago.

By setting an example and collaborating with like-minded businesses, he’s demonstrating that a more sustainable future for tourism is not only possible but within reach.

Published by: Nelly Chavez

Share this article


This article features branded content from a third party. Opinions in this article do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of The Chicago Journal.