Let’s know what the term “ecotourism” means, examples of destinations that put it into practice, and how you can be part of different projects.
The negative impacts of mass tourism on the environment and the communities that receive it have led to an increasing interest in alternative ways. The solution is not to stop traveling, but to do it in a more conscious and respectful way that generates sustainable development.
This is what ecotourism is all about, and in this article, we will see several examples and places where you can be part of it.
Learn about ecotourism projects for volunteering in South America and tips to be a responsible tourist.
What is ecotourism?
Ecotourism, also called ecological tourism, focuses on the observation and enjoyment of natural places with the least possible impact.
The fundamental pursuit of ecotourism is that it has a moral and ethical basis, bringing a benefit to the tourist, local communities, and the environment through the investment of the income it generates in conservation. Bird watching, nature reserve walks, and non-invasive photographic safaris are some examples.
Like gastronomic tourism, rural tourism, and adventure tourism, among others, ecotourism is considered within the category of alternative tourism, which seeks to have completely different experiences from those of mass tourism, with the central characteristic of respecting nature and having a genuine cultural approach, internalizing the traditions of the peoples through which they travel.
According to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism should follow these seven principles:
- Minimize the negative environmental and community impacts of tourism.
- Create sensitivity to the political, environmental, and social climate of host countries.
- Support universal human rights and labor laws.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and strengthen participation in local community decision-making.
Importance of ecotourism
The constantly growing interest in ecotourism among travelers, and the economic benefits it brings, has led many destinations to understand that it can be a viable strategy for sustainable development, generating significant revenue with low impact.
As a basic concept, sustainable development seeks to satisfy the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations, and that is exactly what ecotourism prioritizes.
In addition, it plays a fundamental role in preserving local traditions and the environment, since the main attraction of places that develop ecotourism is to showcase their landscapes, gastronomy, and values that differentiate the place where it is developed from the cities. This also helps to avoid the massive exodus from the countryside to overpopulated urban areas.
Of course, ecological tourism, if not well understood or practiced, can also have negative consequences. One of them is that these destinations become victims of their own success, attracting too large a number of visitors and diverting from the central focus which is environmental care. Travel agencies or accommodations that promote themselves as “eco” may have none of this and use the term in a misleading way to attract tourists.
It is also a common evil that the income remains in the hands of a few tourism entrepreneurs, without a good distribution in generating conservation policies, infrastructure, or general development of the communities that receive tourism. Check out their page to get more helpful hints to use.