What is Eco-tourism?
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” They have added “and involves interpretation and education” in 2015. In this situation education is for visitors as well as the staff. To read the full definition with explanations please go here: What is Ecotourism?
Wikipedia defines it as “Responsible ecotourism programs include those that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy conservation, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities.
We have incorporated energy, recycling/waste, water, community, and land and conservation into our Online Eco Rating Exam. Many of the lodges have completed the exams and received a score so that you can see how they compare to other resorts. The exam takes into account the full definition of TIES.
One drawback to defining eco-tourism is that it has to take into account each countries unique culture, society, and economics. It would therefore be impossible to come up with one exact definition worldwide.
I spent a year living in Mexico. There were no recycling facilities that were easily available, but if you look at the culture you see that these are a people that waste very little. So they might be given a zero in terms of recycling, but that would be misleading.
If a group of people is on a subsistence level, then how can you spark interest in the environment? When you are consumed with feeding your family, it is hard to worry about the plight of some endangered animal or preserving the forests. By creating jobs and educating local people it becomes easier to provide conservation measures and make it become profitable and sustain itself as well as the local community.
As with most things, ecotourism is evolving and so is the definition. Sustainability is another word that has come up in relation to eco-tourism and they have similar meanings.
One thing that needs to be addressed head on is the impact that ecotourism might have on the local wild animals. Studies show that wild animals get stressed when people are around. It is therefore our responsibility to stay on designated paths and carry binoculars. If we keep our distance, we improve the chances of wild animals prospering.
For some thoughts and ideas about how you can minimize your impact when travelling: