Ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). This basically boils down to tourists making sustainable choices and having sustainable behaviors. It also refers to the actual natural tourist activities and how they contribute back to the community and educate those that work and visit the attraction. Here’s why it matters and who you can be a part of ecotourism.
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles (TIES, 2015):
- Conscientious and low-impact/sustainable visitor behavior
- Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
- Support for local conservation efforts
- Sustainable benefits to local communities
- Local participation in decision-making
- Educational components for both the traveler and local communities
But why do these things matter? Tourists making sustainable and responsible choices makes sense. It helps to lessen the impact on the environment and people in the local area. But ecotourism is important and is impacted by more than that. If a large influx of foreigners and culture is not monitored, the integrity of the ecosystems and the stability of the local culture may be disrupted. Tourism is a leading economic infrastructure in many countries but if climate changes, currency fluctuates or political and social structures are unstable, dependence on ecotourism may lead to issues down the road for host countries.
However, ecotourism also has many benefits. Tourist activities in natural areas can help create revenue to protect those very areas. It can provide additional job opportunities that might not have otherwise been there which can help boost the local economy. Ecotourism can also increase education of those that visit and can increase excitement and activism of the travelers that pass through. Tourists who visit these areas should keep these concepts in mind. It not only conserves the area they’re visiting, but these behaviors and educational ideas can carry back to their homeland and benefit their local natural areas as well.
- The International Ecotourism Society
- The Nature Conservancy
- (picture) KhaoSok Paradise Resort
- (picture) Flickr with creative commons license
- (picture) Hawaii Island Ecotourism