The rise and growth of ecotourism

Arriving at the Delta
Image by Storm Crypt via Flickr

Tourism is one of the growth sectors of the global economy. World-wide, it is predicted to more than double from 2000 figures by 2020, when the World Tourism Organization calculates there will be 1.6 billion international travelers. Nature-based tourism refers to those tourism experiences that are directly or indirectly dependent on the natural environment and require a land or water base. The sector includes activities undertaken in mid and back country tourism zones but does not include front country experiences such as downhill skiing, golf or other destination resort activities Ecotourism means ecological tourism, where ecological has both environmental and social connotations Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on the planet. It is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.

Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy efficiency, water re-use, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities are an integral part of ecotourism. “Many organizations and operators involved in ecotourism have used different variations and definitions of this term,” said Sarah Leonard, the executive director for Alaska Wilderness and Recreation Tourism Association, a non-profit trade association that represents wilderness-based tourism businesses. “A challenge within the industry is that there is no one recognized definition.” Lacking that, Leonard pointed to two definitions, one given by the International Ecotourism Society: “Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.”

The second definition was formed by an author: “Ecotravel involves activities in the great outdoors-nature tourism adventure travel, birding, camping, skiing, whale watching and archaeological digs-that take place in marine, mountain, island and desert ecosystems.”

The days are dominated by getting out and exploring and interacting with nature. There’s enough comfort at night where (guests) enjoy their vacation, but not enough that we separate them from the natural world.  For many, ecotourism involves two concepts, one focusing on economics, and the other focusing on the environment. “At certain times and certain places, it’s better to grow the economy by protecting certain areas and letting businesses develop around those,” he said. “That’s a way to achieve sustainability to enjoy the many benefits that nature provides year after year and to make a living at the same time. “But also, it’s a way of operating where you have minimal impact on the environment, appropriately sized groups and sharing of information with the group so they go away with a much deeper appreciation for the environment, wildlife and habitat,” he said. “It’s like a form of education.” The word “ecotourism” can emphasize the ecological significance of a destination and thus provide guidance to tourists as to appropriate conduct. The word can also impart the impression that a provider of travel services is “ecologically” committed. Indeed, the Ecotourist Association of Australia defines ecotourism as ‘ecologically sustainable tourism that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation’.

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One Comment on “The rise and growth of ecotourism”

  1. eco tourism is definitely on the rise, especially with the introduction of “glamping” or glam camping. being able to combine luxury beach escapes and eco tourism is very appealing to many.

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