Ecotourism is on the rise. The movement has been gaining popularity since the 1980’s and is today also referred to as nature travel, responsible travel, mindful travel or conscious travel. Many different terms for more or less the same principles – but what exactly does this mean and what are the advantages of ecotourism?
The advantages of ecotourism include
- sustainable rural development based on environmental protection
- the creation of jobs
- education and awareness about endangered animals and climate change
- the improvement of life quality for locals
- understanding of and sensitivity towards other cultures
Let’s dig a bit deeper to understand how this is achieved.
What is Ecotourism and what are its Advantages?
Ecotourism means responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, while improving the welfare of local people.
Principles of Ecotourism
According to the International Ecotourism society, those who implement, participate in, and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following principles:
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
- Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Advantages of Ecotourism
So, how does this work and what are the main advantages of ecotourism? Let’s take a look at the economy, our environment, and your experience.
Economic Advantages of Ecotourism
The tourism industry means rapid development and rapid development can lead to huge disadvantages for local communities.
Ecotourism on the other hand aims to promote sustainable rural development, with the goal to generate revenue based upon the conservation of the environment, rather than through its transformation. That basically means that the communities are reaping the financial rewards from protecting the local land.
Local jobs for example are advantages of ecotourism. According to a study by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, ecotourism can return as much as 95% of revenues to the local economy, compared to only about 20% for “standard all-inclusive package tours”.
Money Well Spent
In the mainstream tourism industry, sometimes you can’t be sure that your money doesn’t go to corrupt governments or organizations that use it for purposes you don’t support. In the ecotourism industry however, the opposite is the case.
With access to business training and employment opportunities, ecotourism may result in an improved quality of life – You basically pay the locals directly for whatever service they offer.
Commercializing tourist destinations poses a huge threat to natural environments throughout the world. Deforestation, air pollution and habitat loss of wild animals are only a few of the devastating results.
Ecotourists however pay to see a country’s natural beauty, not the destruction caused by short-run exploitation. That makes ecotourism a leading way for developing countries to generate revenue by preserving their rainforests, and protecting their wildlife.
It’s one thing to watch Netflix documentaries on the most beautiful places on earth and how they are being destroyed by climate change and overtourism: It’s sad. You are shocked. You want to make a difference. But you don’t really know where to begin. And a few days later, you have already forgotten about it again.
Experiencing an issue firsthand is a whole different story. Imagine standing in the middle of a rainforest. Listen to the diverse sounds of wildlife in the background, feel the fresh air on your skin.
Or picture diving through crystal clear warm waters, surrounded by colorful corals, playful dolphins and exotic fish.
While this is not supposed to imply that you can only make a difference if you have seen the place, ecotourism allows travelers to become aware of an area’s fragile biodiversity and its community’s needs. The impact such an experience can have on you is a powerful one.
Responsible tourists will also increase their understanding of and sensitivity toward other cultures.
And when back home, the newly gained knowledge and passion can educate and inspire others.
Are There Disadvantages of Ecotourism?
This all sounds a little bit too good to be true, don’t you think? Well, as always, there is a flip side – ecotourism can have disadvantages as well.
Threats to indigenous people: A significant amount of the world’s indigenous communities reside in remote areas, often the most marketable of destinations. Sometimes, local communities are forcefully relocated in order to make space for accommodation and ecotourism expansions.
TIP: Make sure you are not supporting the displacement of indigenous people with your money. It is important that the ecotourism industry works closely together with indigenous groups through effective business partnerships that support their cultural survival.
Travel impacts: This is a very obvious one: Even as the most conscious and careful ecotourist, you still produce emissions. You have to get to your destination somehow and in the worst case, that includes flying.
TIP: It doesn’t always have to be that remote island on the other side of the globe. Why don’t you rather explore what’s right in front of you? There is fascinating wildlife and natural beauty all over the world.
And if you are already there, use low-impact transport, buy local and try to eat vegan.
Greenwashing: The advantages of ecotourism can have a positive impact, however, that only works if all persons and organizations involved actually follow the ecotourism principles mentioned above.
Unfortunately, greenwashing has become a real problem. Companies can call their products and experiences ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ without actually having such practices in place, which sometimes makes it hard for tourists to find the real eco-conscious and responsible operators.
TIP: Always do a proper background check before you book accommodation or tours. Ask questions – a good, eco-friendly organization will be happy to help you understand their methods and goals.
Embrace the Advantages of Ecotourism
Before you plan your next adventure, make sure to follow the ecotourism principles and do your research.
The following resources can help:
The membership site TIES offers certificates as well as master classes related to ecotourism.
Planeta.com provides free access to more than 10,000 pages for travelers, students, and policy-makers. It features news, articles, an eco-travel directory, and recommended reads.
This global cooperative network promoting ecotourism is one of the most popular websites spotlighting eco-lodges and activists around the globe.
The non-profit organization’s mission is to promote sustainable development and responsible travel by providing programs that help travelers as well as organizations in the tourism industry to protect wildlife, environment and locals.
Greenloons helps you find the perfect eco adventure anywhere in the world.
What is your favorite ecotourism initiative that everyone should experience? Let us know in the comment section below!