What is EcoTourism?

The “SC Ecofeminist Blog” (tee hee), at http://scecofeminism.blogspot.com/2008/12/colleen-meehan-wost-111-dr.html, had an interesting article abouw what makes EcoTourism what it is–

“What is ecotourism? According to the International Society of Ecotourism hereby known as (TIES), ecotourism is, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Therefore, ecotourism is more than just responsible travel. It requires a combined effort of conservation, local community participation, and of course, sustainable travel.

 

Ecotourism is a growing alternative form of tourism. It attempts to fuse education, cultural awareness, and historical value into an environmentally sustainable trip. Ecotourism strives to benefit not only the tourist with an incredible vacation, but also to help the conservation effort of our natural resources. Ecotourism strives to aid members of the local community economically and socially. Developing ecotourism will bring along more jobs and revenue for the area as well as a more environmentally-sound outlook on the natural environment. Through the process of uniting the ecotourist with the local community, the area as a whole will become more aware of its environmental state. Local communities will experience benefits by simply protecting their ecosystems and keeping their environment clean.

 

TIES describes six main principles of ecotourism. They are as followed: to minimize environmental impact, build environmental/cultural awareness and respect, to provide a positive experience for locals and visitors, to provide financial benefits for conservation effort, to provide financial benefits for the local community, and finally, to raise sensitivity to host countries political, environmental, and social climate.

 

Tourism is the largest business industry in the world’s economy responsible for over 230 million jobs across the globe. Tourism has been and is still expected to grow in the following years, particularly ecotourism. The importance of tourism worldwide is immense. Tourism is a principle export for 83% of developing countries. It is one of the few economic sectors in which many of these developing countries are able to grab a hold onto the growing global economy. Ecotourism is an especially important industry in countries such as Costa Rica which have developed entire industries based on the eco vacationers. Costa Rica has developed one of the world’s greatest ecotourism industries, while maintaining the importance of conservation. Factors that have contributed to Costa Rica’s success in the industry include its great biodiversity, location, safety and stability, strong environmental lobbying, and international support. The country is home to an incredible amount of biodiversity from its rainforests and volcanoes to its beautiful beaches. Ecotourism extends across the globe just as the natural wonders extend across the globe. By traveling abroad on an ecotourism trip one can experience a new environment, in addition to a new culture and history. Many countries, especially in the developing world have made great headway in the ecotourism industry. (TIES 2008)

 

Ecotourism in SC:

 

South Carolina has been said to be “ripe” for ecotourism according to journalist Matthew Gregory. In the palmetto state, tourism is our number one industry. From the mountains to the beaches, one of the states greatest resources is the natural environment. The ecotourism activity is endless throughout our state ranging from bird watching, to hiking, to exploring our coastal waterways. The state has an abundance of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. The fall foliage in the mountains attracts tourists from all over the southeast, and the possibilities for ecotourism activities are endless. One might ask where he or she can engage in such ecotourism activities. South Carolina has a plethora of natural protected areas including the Congaree National Park, a number of state parks, local parks, and an especially abundant amount of tourism activity located on our coast.

 

The following are a few examples of ecotourism activities that one may partake in the state:

 

Hiking the Palmetto Trail: The Palmetto Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by conservationists. In 1994 the state began working on a new project, the Palmetto Trail. The mission? “More than 425 miles of hiking and bicycle paths besides lakes, across mountain ridges, through forests, into towns big and small.” Spanning from the mountains to the ocean, the Palmetto Trail is one of only 16 cross state trails in the nation. The trail is available for one day or multi day use. Want an idea for a great ecotourism package? Hike the entire Palmetto Trail. One will travel through many different ecosystems and even 2 Revolutionary War Battlefields along the way. Another idea is to only hike one of its “passages,” a piece of the Palmetto Trail. Overall, the trails display the states rich biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as insight to its historical and cultural value. (Palmetto Conservation)

http://www.palmettoconservation.org/maps.asp

Camping at the Congaree National Park: The Congaree National Park, located just outside of the capital, is the states’ only National Park and holds immense intrinsic value. Open 364 days a year (only closed on Christmas Day) the park is easily assessable for all. The largest and oldest remaining old growth floodplain forest that exists on the continent can be found at the Congaree Park. The park is home to a 2.4 mile boardwalk loop trail popular among tourists and locals alike. In addition, there are over 20 miles of backcountry hiking available and also a river ideal for canoeing, kayaking, or fishing. The park offers canoe and kayaking tours led by experienced river guides and can even provide you with a boat. Fishing is allowed in the park with a valid SC fishing license. Camping is permitted all year long with several different locations available, such as backcountry campsites. The park also offers a number of educational experiences such as “Tree Talk” and “Nature Discovery” both guided walks led by park rangers.

 

http://www.nps.gov/ser/customcf/apps/pgallery/photo.cfm?pid=1520&aid=214&gid=214


“Owl Prowls” are another example. This is a popular night walk guided by a ranger and allows visitors to have a unique experience viewing an interesting assortment of native creatures in the area. So whether your interests are vested in bird watching or canoeing down a river, or simply spending a weekend around a campfire, the Congaree has more than enough to offer for an eco-trip. Just remember to practice leave no trace principles! (National Park Service)

 

http://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/upload/CONG%20Boundary%20Expansion_sm.pdf

 

Kayaking down the Three Rivers Greenway: Right here in Columbia one can take part in an ecotourism trip down the river. For only fifteen dollars one can rent a kayak and take part in a two and a half hour guided tour down the river, ending at the Riverfront Park in Columbia. It is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the city as well as a great way to learn some history of Columbia, one of the oldest planned cities in the entire nation. From personal experience, this is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without having to travel far. When you are on the river you get engulfed in the natural beauty and forget that you are in the capital city.

http://www.riveralliance.org/

 

How does ecofeminism fit into ecotourism?

Ecofeminism and ecotourism are two extremely compatible, ever changing concepts. Dating back thousands of years there has been evidence of women’s unbounded relationship with nature. We see Mother Earth as our provider, our home, our protector. She gives to us and we take from her, without her there would be no life. Today in a society consisting of technology and material goods there is a need for women especially to get back in touch with their natural environments. Luckily there are programs that do such a thing. For example, Adventure Carolina, an outdoor gear and supply outlet located in Cayce, SC, offers trips just for women. There are a number of different activities designated for women only groups including kayaking, hiking, and even weekend get aways.

 

Mary Alice Monroe’s, The Beach House:

Inspiration for this project stemmed after reading Mary Alice Monroe’s The Beach House. A conservationists and native to South Carolina she tells the story of a mother daughter struggling to rekindle a relationship, and that inseparable, crucial bond among women. The mother/daughter team struggles to save the sea turtle hatchlings on the beaches of SC that are being destroyed by the rapid increase in development and population on the nation’s coastlines. The Turtle Ladies, as they are called, work together night and day to help save one of the Earths oldest creatures. The novel helps one see the relationship between environmental degradation and the status of women. Women find a way to make control over chaos, even in the middle of a deteriorating environment, then again, “it’s nature” (Monroe 247).

 

 

Resources:

 

www.discoversouthcarolina.com

 

www.adventurecarolina.com

 

www.nature.org/aboutus/travel/ecotourism/travel/

 

http://south-carolina.uscity.net/Eco_Tourism/

 

www.coastalexpeditions.com

 

www.americaoutdoors.org

 

 

 

Works Cited:

 

Fox, Karen M. “Negotiating in a world of change: ecofeminist guideposts for leisure scholarship.” Journal of Leisure Research, Vol. 26, 1994.

 

Monroe, Mary Alice. The Beach House. Mira Books. U.S.A., 2002.

 

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Congaree National Park. http://www.nps.gov/cong/photosmultimedia/index.htm?eid=142603&root_aId=214#e_142603. 8 December 2008

 

Palmetto Conservation Foundation. http://www.palmettoconservation.org/maps.asp. 8 December 2008.

“Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints and Waste Nothing but Time.” The Pros and Cons of Ecotourism in Costa Rica.

http://www.american.edu/TED/costa-rica-tourism.htm. 8 December 2008.

 

The International Society of Ecotourism. http://www.ecotourism.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/eco_template.aspx?articleid=95&zoneid=2. 8 December 2008.

 

The River Alliance. http://www.riveralliance.org/. 8 December 2008.”

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