What Is Ecotourism… And Why You Should Care

Photo Courtesy: Kerkez/iStock

Exploring the wonders of the world has never been easier. And this has resulted in a surge of tourists globally.However, the increased numbers of tourists have placed greater demands on tourist attractions. More people have turned to ecotourism as a method for sustainability and positive development in response to this increasing threat. So what is ecotourism? Read on to learn more about it and how it helps the industry as a whole.

What Is Ecotourism?

Also called green tourism, sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, mindful travel, ethical tourism, and pro-poor tourism, the foundation of ecotourism is to adopt practices that support local communities and protect the destination itself.  

The concept of ecotourism can be summarized in two words: travel responsibly.

Ecotourism emphasizes environmental awareness and community involvement. As an ecotourist, the objective is to travel to a place and prioritize the community’s well-being and the environment. You shouldn’t only respect their home but also actively enhance it whenever possible.

Brief History of Ecotourism

Ecotourism isn’t a new thing. It was first used in 1965 by Claus-Dieter Hetzer, who outlined the cornerstones of responsible tourism.

Ecotourism was recognized as a vital tool for attaining both development and conservation efforts by the mid-1980s. It became even more popular in the 1990s due to increased environmental awareness.

Principles of Ecotourism

It’s important to note that just because a tour group claims to be sustainable does not mean it actually is. There are basic principles that need to be followed to support the aims of ecotourism. 

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Build cultural and environmental awareness

Sustainable tourism supports the protection of cultural and natural heritage. It also highlights the importance of protecting the environment for future generations. 

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Provide a positive experience for visitors and hosts

The main goal of ecotourism is to introduce travelers to new cultures and places and provide a positive experience for both hosts and guests. This aim requires mutual respect for cultures, as well as for the natural environment. 

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Provide direct financial benefits for conservation

The best part of ecotourism is that ecotourists can view and experience a destination while also knowing they’re benefiting the environment. For ecotourism to work, it must provide financial resources to help with conversation. This ensures that the environment is preserved for generations to come. 

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Provide financial benefits and empowerment for the local people

Ecotourism can only be successful if it becomes a source of profit for people in the region. For example, local guides and porters must be fairly compensated for their services. 

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Raise sensitivity to the host country’s political environment and social climate

One of the best ways to support the local culture is to involve and interact with the community. To do this, you must be sensitive to the host country’s social and political issues.

Benefits of Ecotourism

It’s easy to see why ecotourism is so popular. The following are just some of its benefits.

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Foster local development

Ecotourism is an effective way to bolster local economies because it allows communities to profit from their most important resources. For example, communities can benefit by hosting nature-based activities. They can also earn funds through visitors purchasing local products as souvenirs. 

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Push for education and awareness

When travelers become more aware of environmental conservation, they also grow more sensitive to the impacts of tourism. This understanding helps them protect the environment and educate others on the importance of preserving it. 

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Promote environmental preservation

The foundation of ecotourism is to preserve the environment from harmful impacts. This benefit is made possible by creating local partnerships and promoting community-based conservation.

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Decrease carbon emissions

Compared to other forms of tourism, ecotourism does not require as much energy. This advantage is because it does not rely as heavily on motorized transportation and minimizes waste. 

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Provide more employment opportunities

Tourism provides meaningful employment opportunities so more locals can earn a fair for their hard work. This income helps them to improve the quality of life in their community.

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Organizations to Support Ecotourism

Here are some organizations that support ecotourism:

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Treadright – This charitable organization aims to reduce single-use plastics, educate travelers about more sustainable behavior, and quantify and reduce carbon emissions.

Sockmob – It’s a one-of-a-kind initiative to experience a unique aspect of London, England. Sockmob is a volunteer-based organization that arranges for properly trained homeless guides to lead tourists on hikes. It has succeeded in getting the homeless off the street and injecting awareness into commercial walking tours.

Parkbus – This company was founded in 2010 by two adventure seekers who wanted to make traveling more accessible to those who didn’t have access to a car. Parkbus aims to reduce carbon emissions and connect people with nature.

What Can You Do?

Companies and organizations can only do so much to safeguard the environment. At the end of the day, knowing how to be an environmentally-conscious tourist will have the most impact.

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Here are five ways you can make a difference.

Support local industry

Support and buy souvenirs and crafts manufactured locally. Purchasing things made in the destinations you visit rather than imported souvenirs can help support the local economy.

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Visit Less Touristy Areas

Places are under stress from the flock of tourists that frequent them. Visiting less popular areas will provide less stress on local environments and allow you to contribute to local development. Be sure to buy local and support the local economy.

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Use public transportation

Use public transportation whenever possible. Walking, cycling, and taking public transit can help the environment while also saving money for vacationers.

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Avoid single-use plastics

Reduce trash and avoid single-use plastics. With approximately 91 percent of plastic not getting recycled, it would be healthier for the environment if tourists avoid using plastics completely.

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Be respectful

Always treat wildlife and the environment with respect. And as a responsible tourist, avoid petting or feeding wild animals. These acts can make them more dependent on people for food and sustenance, resulting in attacks and harm to wildlife.

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The Takeaway

At the end of the day, the world is home to billions of people. Each person has the right to explore and enjoy the world. However, the world can only take so much before it becomes damaged. 

While you may not be able to help protect an entire country while traveling, you can help by engaging in ecotourism practices.

When you plan your next ecotourism trip, you can do your part to support the environment and local communities. In so doing, you’ll be able to return home with new memories and better understand the importance of protecting the planet.

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