Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to a natural area that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people. There are many companies that provide such tours, but just because you pay your fees doesn’t automatically make you environmentally conscious. There are several principles and guidelines you should follow when traveling with an ecotourism group or even on your own.
The goal of ecotourism
Eco-tours encourage and teach participants how to live in an environmentally responsible way. By participating in conservation and preservation projects, travelers educate themselves on environmental issues and awareness. Eco-tours that involve the local community empower the area’s inhabitants and pay fair wages, thereby preventing exploitation, as well as benefiting the local economy.
According to The International Ecotourism Society, your eco-vacation should:
- Minimize impact.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both the visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
- Raise sensitivity to the host country’s political, environmental and social climate.
Deciding on your trip
There are many eco-tour providers that span the entire world, but before you decide who to sign up with, you should research what the eco principles and practices are of the company you are thinking about going with.
You should also get yourself up to date on the area you would like to visit. Familiarize yourself with their culture, history and customs. In addition, learning a little bit of the language will ingratiate yourself to the locals even if all you know is how to say “Hello” and “Thank you.” You should also be aware of resource shortages before leaving so as not to add to their depletion.
A responsible stay
While at your destination, the Eco Tour Directory recommends:
- Using local transportation, guides and markets to help benefit the local economy.
- When exploring the area, environmentally responsible travelers should not remove any objects, plants or animals from the terrain, or buy animal products while traveling.
- The encouragement and participation in conservation practices such as the use of renewable resources in a sustainable manner and the conservation of non-renewable resources.
- No hunting of endangered or threatened species or the harvesting of rare plants for consumption.
Continue the trend
Once you’ve returned home, you can continue to reduce your carbon footprint by following the practices you’ve learned on your trip. Also, supporting organizations or societies that are eco-friendly and spreading the word will go far in raising environmental awareness.