What is Eco-Tourism & Why It Matters

What is eco-tourism, and why is this new travel trend here to stay? Check out how this form of sustainable travel is bringing people closer to the environment.
Camera and books on a table with the title 'Journal of Sustainable Tourism'

As climate change and environmental issues continue to gain more attention, many travelers are seeking ways to minimize their impact while exploring new destinations. One form of sustainable tourism that has gained popularity in recent years is eco-tourism, but what is eco-tourism, and how can you incorporate it into your plans?

Traveling around the world offers a perfect opportunity to observe our relationship with the environment, and how humans exist in our natural world. Eco-tourism is a type of travel that focuses on preserving the natural environment, supporting local communities, and understanding how our decisions impact everything else around us. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss what eco-tourism is, why it’s important, and how you can practice it on your next adventure!

What is Eco-Tourism?

Eco-tourism is a form of sustainable tourism that promotes responsible travel and environmental conservation. It involves supporting local communities, and visiting natural areas while minimizing the impact on the environment. 

Eco-tourism aims to promote sustainable tourism practices and reduce the negative impact of tourism on the environment and locals. This includes minimizing carbon emissions, reducing waste, conserving water, and supporting local economies. 

Table of Contents

"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education"

Myths & Misconceptions

1. Eco-Tourism is Expensive

While some eco-tourism experiences may be more expensive than traditional tourism, there are also many affordable options available. Eco choices don’t necessarily mean they are a luxury. For example, taking an authentic cooking class with a local family can be more affordable than a fancy dinner at a modern restaurant, and many eco-friendly transport options are also more affordable! 

2. Eco-Tourism is Only For outdoorsy people

While it’s true that many eco-tourism experiences involve outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or wildlife spotting, eco-tourism is not limited to the most adventurous travelers. Some eco-friendly accommodations and activities cater to all types of travelers, including families, couples, and solo travelers. 

3. Eco-Tourism is Only For Nature Lovers

Eco-tourism experiences often involve visiting natural areas, but they also provide opportunities to learn about local cultures, traditions, and communities. Eco-tourism can be a great way to experience a destination’s culture and history while also promoting sustainable travel practices. Indoor eco-tourism activities could be taking a cooking class, watching a traditional dance, 

4. Eco-Tourism is only in Remote Destinations

While many eco-tourism experiences are located in remote areas, there are also many urban eco-tourism experiences available! For example, visiting a city’s green spaces and botanical gardens, and getting involved with sustainable food is also considered eco-tourism. You don’t need to be in a remote jungle to experience eco-tourism, there are natural and cultural experiences available everywhere!

5. Eco-Tourism is Not Comfortable

While there are some eco-tourism experiences that involve rustic accommodations and outdoor activities, they don’t have to! For example, eco-lodges offer comfortable and luxurious amenities, just with an emphasis on natural materials and resources or resource conservation. The level of comfort you are seeking in eco-tourism depends on your budget and personal desires, but there is always something that fits everyone’s wants and needs!

6. Eco-Tourism is Not Safe

Like any form of travel, there are risks associated with eco-tourism experiences. However, reputable eco-tourism operators prioritize the safety of their guests and provide necessary safety equipment and guidance for outdoor activities.

It is also important to remember that nature is wild, and you should maintain a safe distance and awareness while in natural environments at all times.

Tip - It is important to remember that nature is wild, and you should maintain a safe and respectful distance and sense of awareness while in natural environments,

Why is Eco-Tourism Important?

Eco-tourism is important for several reasons. First, it promotes environmental conservation efforts and helps to preserve natural areas. By encouraging responsible travel practices, eco-tourism helps to reduce the negative impact on the environment, including deforestation, habitat destruction, and pollution.

Eco-tourism also supports local communities by creating jobs and providing economic opportunities. By supporting local businesses and services, travelers can contribute to the local economy and help to sustain local cultures and traditions. Not only does it support the local economy, but eco-tourism can also help to preserve cultural traditions and heritage!

Finally, eco-tourism allows travelers to experience the natural beauty of a destination while minimizing their impact on the environment. By choosing eco-friendly travel options, travelers can enjoy a unique and authentic experience while promoting sustainable tourism practices. 

Since eco-tourism is engaged with the natural environment of a place, it offers opportunities to learn and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. 

How Can You Practice Eco-Tourism?

1. Eco-Friendly Accommodation

When planning your trip, consider staying at eco-lodges, hotels that have implemented sustainable practices, or other eco-friendly accommodation options. These accommodations often have green certifications and use environmentally-friendly practices, such as renewable energy, water conservation, and waste reduction.

While some lodgings offer a wildlife experience or nature tours, it is important for the consumer (yes that’s you!), to do research into the company to verify it does promote environmental stewardship. Anyone anywhere can say something is ‘eco-‘, ‘sustainable’, or any other greenwashing word!

2. Support Local Businesses

One of the core principles of eco-tourism is to support local communities. When traveling, consider purchasing locally-made products, using local services, and participating in cultural activities. This can help to sustain local economies and preserve cultural traditions! I get it, you can’t always choose the most local, organic product there is, but even having a conscious thought about it will push the needle!

3. Visit Natural Areas

Eco-tourism often involves being in nature, which includes visiting national parks, wildlife reserves, and other protected areas. This brings in money for the region to continue preservation and educational efforts!

When visiting these areas, it’s important to respect the environment and follow responsible travel practices, such as staying on designated trails and minimizing waste! Always carry in, carry out, and Leave No Trace.

4. Choose Eco-Friendly Transportation

When traveling, consider using public transportation, walking, or cycling instead of driving or flying. These transportation options can help reduce carbon emissions and minimize your impact on the environment. If you do need to drive, try to carpool as much as possible, or use less-intensive transport options like a motorbike or electric vehicle.

When you can’t avoid gas-guzzling transport options, you can offset the carbon emissions by purchasing a carbon credit! Many transportation tickets offer the consumer an added fee to offset the contributed emissions directly, or you can make payment voluntarily to Climate Trade.

5. Learn about the Local Environment

Eco-tourism has a huge emphasis on the natural environment and local ecosystems, which involves learning about them! Consider joining a guided tour or participating in educational programs to learn about the local flora and fauna, and how to protect them. 

Also, the best way to learn about the natural environment is to talk to the locals! Ask the people that have been living in an area what they have seen change over the years, and what the greatest threats to local biodiversity are. Climate change is impacting everyone differently around the world, so take some time to ask the people that experience it the closest.

6. Reduce Waste

When traveling, it’s important to minimize waste and reduce your environmental impact. This includes using a reusable water bottle, carrying a reusable shopping bag, and avoiding single-use plastics. Some eco-friendly accommodations also provide eco-friendly amenities and encourage guests to conserve resources, but you should be prepared with your own utensils and reusable solutions!

7. Volunteer

There are so many ways for travelers to give back and participate in conservation efforts or community projects. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the local community and support conservation while meeting people and getting a hands-on appreciation and understanding of the local environment. 

Many volunteer programs will offer food and accommodation for your time supporting a project! This is not only a great eco-tourism option, but also a perfect solution to those traveling on a budget.

8. Choose Responsible Tour Operators

When booking tours or activities, choose tour operators that promote responsible travel practices and sustainable tourism. Look for tour operators that have eco-friendly certifications or have implemented sustainable practices in their operations.

Another way to practice is through Slow Travel. Check out these articles on What Is Slow Travel, and A Guide To Your Slow Travel Dream Life!

Summary - What is Eco-Tourism & Why It Matters

Eco-tourism is a sustainable form of tourism that promotes responsible travel and environmental conservation. By choosing eco-friendly travel options, supporting local communities, and minimizing your impact on the environment, you can incorporate eco-tourism into your travel plans and contribute to sustainable tourism practices. 

With the growing concern for environmental issues and sustainable travel, eco-tourism is becoming an increasingly popular travel option for those who want to explore new destinations while preserving the natural environment and supporting local communities. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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