We’ve become a global world and traveling has never been this easier or at least before the pandemic… Every year, people travel far from home mainly to popular destinations that now suffer from the effects of mass tourism.
Perhaps with the pandemic, people will look for more sustainable ways to travel in order to reform the tourism industry.
We know the alternative to mass tourism is now, ecotourism, but what is it ? And why should we care about ecotourism ?
1. What is exactly ‘’ecotourism ‘’ ?
Let’s take 3 minutes to understand “why should we care about ecotourism ?” and “what are the benefits of it ?”.
Simply put, ecotourism is defined as : ‘’Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education ‘’.
It is a low impact form of travel that preserves the natural world and protects its biodiversity and local communities. The ecotourism destinations are usually fragile and fairly preserved.
2. Now you may wonder : why should we care about ecotourism ?
Because it really helps preserve some of the most beautiful environments on Earth on a much deeper level than what we all already know.
You can contribute to local communities and educate yourself so the more knowledge we have about the world, the better we can protect for future generations.
Do you know that ecotourism is different from sustainable tourism, we often have trouble making the distinction! That's why we prefer to explain it to you!
3. Ecotourism vs. Sustainable tourism
Ecotourism has many environmental, cultural and economic benefits for residents. But ecotourism should not be confused with nature tourism, which is only travel to natural attractions. For example, in nature tourism, a tourist may go bird watching in a scenic area, but an ecotourist will go bird watching with a local guide and stay in an Ecolodge run by local people, thus contributing to the local economy.
- Ecotourism: ecotourism focuses on ecological conservation and educating tourists about the local environment and surrounding nature
- Sustainable Tourism: Sustainable tourism attempts to reduce the negative impacts of the tourism sector on the environment and local communities.
- Ecotourism: Ecotourism encompasses different types of destinations such as wilderness, urban centers, and other places of cultural value.
- Sustainable Tourism: Sustainable tourism often includes destinations that have unique natural features, usually rural and wilderness areas.
- Ecotourism: Ecotourism is a type of tourism.
- Sustainable Tourism: The concept of sustainability can be applied to any form of tourism.
4. How can ecotourism work ?
Ecotourism can have a positive impact on our environment according to the following criteria :
- The negative impact of tourism on the environment is kept as low as possible. In addition, the importance of environmental protection is concretized for the tourists through nature education.
- The additional income of the local population through tourism causes an increasing appreciation of the environment and thus establishes a locally practiced nature and resource protection.
- A part of the financial resources of the tourism sector contributes to the financing of nature conservation measures.
5. What are the benefits of ecotourism holidays ?
The tourism sector accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Air travel is by far the biggest travel-related climate sin, followed by ground transportation and tourist accommodation.
In general, it should be clear that the emissions of a round-trip flight cannot be offset so easily, which is why long-distance travel called ecotourism is much discussed. It is more environmentally friendly to forgo flying and, for example, to take the train or long-distance bus to a closer vacation destination. If it has to be a flight, the following rules should apply: not too often, not too far and choosing a reasonable ratio between the distance to the travel destination and the duration of the vacation.
In addition, air passengers can offset the emissions of their flight, this is what we are doing with our "1 traveler, 2 trees" program. Our commitment is simple, every time a traveler books a trip, we minimize their carbon footprint by planting 2 trees. This is one of the actions we are implementing to offer a more conscious travel towards the planet and its populations ! Our goal is to minimize the social and environmental impacts of tourism.
However, ecotourism in its ideal form can only work if social aspects are taken into account in addition to ecological ones. Only when the benefits of tourism remain in the region, the economic incentive to protect the precious nature is there.
Here are the main ones :
As we already mentioned, ecotourism raises awareness of the treats to the environment, but it also allows people to get informed and make even small changes to make a real difference. It all starts from Knowledge.
Support local communities.
Ecotourism is focusing on giving back to local markets, companies and communities rather than large multinationals. When you choose ecotourism, you contribute to the livelihoods of the local communities.
Live a deeper travel experience.
Ecotourism gives you the chance to really stop and look around you and appreciate its natural beauty. It is not only about the environment, it’s about you because it educates you, improves your mental health and makes you more open-minded.
Studies have shown that exposure to natural environments helps to improve our psychological health and makes us feel good.
Isn’t it better to just not travel ?
Yes and no. In fact, we can’t stop travelling to other countries because we are now too curious to discover other cultures, other communities and it takes a lot of courage to just stay in one country just to not emit greenhouse gases. It is all about finding a balance which is exactly what ecotourism does.
By choosing ecotourism, you’re avoiding mass tourism in favor of an experience that gives back to the planet and to local communities.
6. To conclude
Tourism can be both a blessing and a curse for desirable travel destinations. On the one hand, the lucrative industry creates jobs and opportunities for people, on the other hand, it also has negative consequences that often overwhelm locals: cultural intolerance, burgeoning competition among the population, garbage and noise.
"Tourism destroys what it seeks by finding it." (Hans Magnus Enzensberger)
So-called ecotourism should represent a limited, sensitive and sustainable alternative to mass tourism. But ecotourism is interpreted very differently. Proximity to nature is at the forefront of this form of tourism, but the ecologically sustainable management of it varies considerably in practice. For many providers, the demands of the tourists come first, so that the protection of nature and animals is too often subordinated to the needs of the tourists. In general, the critical demand for sustainability and environmental protection is very important here in order to establish an increasingly green strategy among providers. In this context, some tourism providers are often accused of label fraud and greenwashing.
Of course, limited and exclusive tourism in a private accommodation run by a local family business is more in line with the understanding of ecotourism than the international five-star hotel complex. Nevertheless, it is important that the aspect of sustainability jumps to all forms of tourism, whether in the big city or in natural areas, so that, among other things, the critical demands of tourists will prompt suppliers to do more than just switch to energy saving lamps. For exclusive ecotourism in areas close to nature, this usually means keeping the tourism footprint as small as possible.
Now, you know why should we care about ecotourism and what are the benefits for a better travel industry ! 👏😍 But are you aware of the 6 sustainable travel myths ? 🤔