If you’re the kind of person that loves to marvel at the beauty and the wonder of the world thanks to David Attenborough’s soothing voiceover or stunning landscape pictures on Instagram, you may have had to stop yourself from booking flights and seeing it for yourself. After all, a return flight from the UK to New York will emit a carbon footprint of 1.2t – which is the recommended yearly footprint per person if we want to combat climate change and really make a difference to our increasingly-damaged world. Yes, many people choose to avoid flights across the globe in their battle to live consciously, and they rid themselves of any kind of holiday or break away from the modern world – but that isn’t the only way to save the planet. What exactly is ecotourism, though? And can it really help?
Since the dawn of the aeroplane and modern commercial forms of transport, travel has become a booming business. It’s now easier than ever for people across the globe to travel around the world one flight, road trip, cruise itinerary, or train at a time. Many of these forms of transport have a negative impact on the environment as they emit greenhouse gases, pollute the oceans, or take up valuable land space.
Couple this with the fact that a large majority of people then spend their days chilling out on the beach and enjoying a well-earned break, and the impact on the environment is huge. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s because ecotourism is becoming more and more popular – but what is ecotourism?
So, what is ecotourism?
According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is defined as “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.” This means that travellers make their way to these new destinations and landscapes, but they try to minimize their negative impact as much as possible.
This includes the environment, the animals that call that destination their home, the people who live there, and how they get there. While some aspects of modern tourism exploits the natural world and local resources used by local communities for their own gain, ecotourism helps to protect and maintain the natural world thanks to the conscious decisions of travellers.
Examples of ecotourism
When looking at what ecotourism is, it can be easy to assume that this way of life enlists a “Look, but don’t touch,” policy when it comes to travelling. However, it’s so much more than that. The concept of ecotourism invites people to actively get involved in the natural world, rather than just viewing it from afar. It may be that you head to Costa Rica and partner with a conservation agency to help protect endangered animals.
Perhaps you’ll ditch modern hotels for guest houses and lodges run by local people or eco-friendly retreats. It might be that you choose to cycle around the area rather than drive. Maybe you choose to actively help to clean up those areas that have been trashed by modern travellers. All of these things can make a difference – and there’s no doubt about the fact that you will also enjoy your experience.
Today, it seems as though more and more people are enjoying their experiences as an ecotourist. However, it’s important to note that you don’t have to spend every single day of your hard-earned break doing countless tasks that will obviously help those around you. Making small changes will help to cut down the negative effects of tourism on the natural world, and that means that you can still spend a few days lazing on the beach! Just remember to take your rubbish with you…