The expansion of tourism across the globe is partly responsible for both positive and negative change to the environment on a grand scale. On one hand, we are more educated than ever before on detail of cultures thousands of miles away, how to travel there and immerse ourselves in ways unfamiliar to our daily routines. On the flipside, the demand of more people visiting global destinations year after year comes at a cost. Aircraft pollute the skies, wildlife depletes, and inhabitants lose lands they once claimed as their own.
But it doesn’t have to always be this way. Change can happen and examples must be set to ensure that a conscious effort is being made to protect the destinations we travel to and the surroundings we encounter, not only for our generation but for those in the future.
Cue the term ecotourism, which is a contemporary form of travel that seeks to rebalance the scales and make travel more sustainable – for the benefit of our culture, our environment and our economy. It has been defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
How is ecotourism different from other forms of tourism?
There are certain attributes that bring ecotourism into its own, predominantly involving the following:
– Conscientious, low-impact visitor behaviour
– Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
– Support for local conservation efforts
– Sustainable benefits to local communities
– Local participation in decision-making
In summary, the act of ecotourism allows the places we visit to receive their fair share of the revenue generated from tourism trade.
Why is ecotourism so important?
Travel and leisure companies that facilitate the travel to countries they do not operate out of make profits that are not reinvested in the local community and environment. To put this into perspective, about 80% of travelers’ expenditures go to the airlines, hotels and other international companies and it does not go to local businesses or workers. In places such as Thailand and the Caribbean, the consideration for ecotourism is so low that it is estimated 70-80% of income from tourism goes elsewhere. To champion sustainable tourism would mean that a larger majority of revenue is allocated to the preservation of these regions long term.
What is driving the change for ecotourism?
In this day and age, a holiday offers an experience and those that are unique to their location are the most natural and pure to come by. We all want beaches and landscapes and gems that we can’t find at home but beyond that there is now a global community spirit to ensure we are not leaving such places in a worse state than we find them. For every action there is a reaction; our lasting impact should be that of making the world a better place in any way we can.
Time waits for no man so getting to see natural worldly wonders in all their glory is a challenge worth taking on. Sustainable living website Litter Bins has created a handy guide for 10 places on earth known for eco tourism to start with, they are:
- Costa Rica, which is also en route to becoming the first carbon neutral country by 2021.
- Galapagos Islands, which has plants and animals that are not found anywhere else in the world.
- Borneo, which is known for rainforest protection and orangutan rehabilitation centres.
- Peru, which is home to tropical rainforests and jungles that have always been important ecosystems in our world.
- Patagonia, which is home to glacier ranges that are diminishing because of climate change.
- Bhutan, which is known as the world’s most eco-friendly and carbon-negative country.
- Slovenia, which has a well-deserved reputation for clean, green travel in Europe.
- Botswana, a country committed to preserving its natural heritage and wildlife.
- New Zealand, which has striking landscapes and expansive untouched wilderness regions.
- Vietnam, which is rich in lush green mountains, green rice paddy fields, and national parks.