What is Ecotourism?
Most people can deduce that ecotourism has to do with the conservation of the environment and its resources. But not everyone is aware of how accessible it is.
So, in this post, we will explain the ins and outs of ecotourism. Additionally, we will provide some examples to help newbie and veteran ecotourists alike get inspiration for their next trip.
The Definition of Ecotourism
Ecotourism, according to the International Ecotourism Society, is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”
This means that ecotourism is much more than traveling around the globe and sightseeing. Ecotourism is about ensuring that your visit also has a positive impact on the local community. This includes the people and their natural resources.
Why Choose Ecotourism Over Traditional Mass Tourism?
Although the tourism industry is constantly growing, this growth doesn’t always necessarily have positive implications for the destination and its resources. For one, a heightened influx of tourists can threaten the ecosystem of sensitive natural locations. More people equals more strain on the environment.
Another drawback of mass tourism is that, despite its trillion dollar value, only 5% of the income is invested in the local community. Thus, travelers should be conscious of where their money goes. Thankfully, forms of tourism like ecotourism are reshaping the face of travel.
Ecotourism is not only concious of its impact on the natural environment, it is also sensitive to the local economy. This means that a legit ecotour won’t be putting money in the hefty bank accounts of transnational companies. Instead, locals will be reaping the benefits of your visit.
Benefits of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is one of the most ethical ways of traveling. It benefits the traveler, the local, and nature. Here are some specific advantages of ecotourism:
Ecotourism helps build cultural awareness by fostering respect for the place you travel to and the community you visit. When tour operators aren’t commodifying a destination for the sake of making a buck, an authentic exchange can happen between the guide and the visitor. Not only do the visitors come away with an immersive, memorable experience, but the destination is able to share its culture to the outside world in an uninhibited way.
Ecotourism is one way to educate the public about a certain location, and also about the importance of caring for the environment. Because of the damage of climate change, travelers are becoming increasingly aware of the urgency of action founded in education. What better classroom is there than nature itself? Ecotours aren’t just lectures, they are hands-on experiences that give visitors many opportunities to learn new skills and information.
Unlike commercial tours, which are preoccupied with growing a private company’s bottom line, ecotourism operators are necessarily concerned about the welfare of the local community — including the economy. A truly eco-consciou tour will have been planned and managed locally, with the consent and involvement of the residents. This not only nurtures good relationships, but also helps create local jobs. Tour guides, homestay hosts, entertainers, translators, and more, are a result of the ecotourism industry.
Naturally, ecotourism is focused on the environment. Not only do ecotour operators cull experiences that have a low impact on nature, the revenue of legitimate eco-friendly experiences will go towards preserving resources and protecting the environment.
Examples of Ecotourism
So how does one join the ecotourism movement? Just jump right in. You don’t need to be a seasoned outdoorsman. Even inexperienced travelers can join an ecotour for an afternoon.
With help from resources like Visit.org, which makes sure all of its 600+ worldwide tours are eco-friendly and respectful to the local culture, any traveler can find something that suits them.
Here are a few environmentally-friendly travel activities to get you started:
- Learn how to make cocoa from local farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, and support the conservation of their environment through the tour revenue.
- Take a day trip from NYC to participate in a variety of seasonal farming activities with a farm that encourages healthy eating habits.
- Protect sea turtles in Costa Rica by setting endangered hatchlings free in the Pacific Ocean.
For more environment-focused tours, check out Visit.org’s Environment Cause Map. There are hundreds to choose from!