What is ecotourism? How does it work? Why does it matter? And how can we, as travelers, put the core principles of ecotourism into practice?
Recently the growth of responsible travel has gown exponentially, with experts estimating that ecotourism now represents 11.4% of all consumer spending. This is positive news as we are now beginning to see the devastating results of mass tourism to beloved places. Beaches devastated, locals displaced and wildlife that is meant to be protected often unintentionally harmed due to excitement and the need for the next amazing social media post.
While there are many names for ecotourism this most common names, originating from the 1980′s is the most common. Other names include sustainable tourism, green tourism, nature tourism, responsible tourism, ethical tourism, mindful travel, conscious travel, pro-poor tourism, and many others.
No matter the name you choose to use the central principals of all of the above are that the travel industry as a whole should adapt more environmentally friendly practices, protect the natural and cultural heritage of any given destination and lend support to local communities.
So how can each individual traveler put these principals into practice, what would some practical steps be? Things like packing light, this will not only save you money on travel fees but will help increase plane fuel efficiency. Choosing items that can be washed in a sink and hung to dry as well as being worn more than once will help save room in your suitcase. Inside hotels turning off lights, tv and A.C. unit when leaving the room will help save electricity as well as putting out the “Do not disturb” sign. This will keep hotel staff from washing laundry everyday, saving on energy cost as well as keeping harsh cleaning chemicals from entering the local water supply. Become a traveler, not a tourist. Immerse yourself into the local culture, eat locally and support small local artisans.
While this can sound like something only world travelers should be paying attention to, many states here at home have implemented their own ecotourism policies. The benefits being that many places have seen a resurgence of native wildlife and vegetation returning. Locals have a more sustainable source of income from tourist but those travels who visit feel a greater sense of connection to the area they are visiting.
With things beginning to open back up to travel there is no better time to really appreciate nature and the amazing places both at home and abroad. As the famous saying goes “Take nothing by memories and leave nothing but footprints”.