What is ecotourism?
In recent years, a new trend has developed among people who like to travel: ecotourism.
But what is this new style of tourism, and what does it mean for the sector as a whole?
What is it?
Ecotourism is an increasingly popular form of tourism which emphasises taking care of the environment and contributing to small communities rather than 'tourist traps.
Popular travel destinations (particularly those with especially beautiful or scenic natural environments) can easily be damaged by high levels of tourism and the development that comes with it, such as more buildings and infrastructure.
In general, ecotourism follows three main principles:
- do your best to protect the natural environment or the local communities (e.g. do not disturb wildlife, buy goods from local people)
- respect the local community (e.g. adhering to their local customs) and consult them on proposed developments
- make sure that any additional buildings benefit the community, rather than neglecting it in favour of tourists
Why do people do it?
As the public learn more about global warming and the danger it poses to the planet, more and more of them are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
The fact that many people now feel a much greater ecological responsibility to the planet has led to this growing niche within the hospitality and tourism sector. This drive is being felt even in the more mainstream areas of the industry as hotels and tour operators implement sustainability practices.
For many tourists, ecotourism is one way of taking care of the earth even in your leisure time.
What does it mean for the industry?
This year's report from the Center for Responsible Travel notes that the industry is under pressure to deepen its sustainable tourism practices with the following quote from Lonely Planet: 'Eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable travel will be a top industry trend.'
With the United Nations recognising the rise of this phenomenon by designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it's likely that ecotourism is here to stay.
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