Being concerned and protective about the environment is of growing importance in the tourism sector. With more and more tourists becoming cautious about how not to harm the place but look for a distinctive vacation destination, serving responsible tourists is possibly one of the most challenging factors in holiday packaging for a travel agent today.
UN declared 2002 as the “International Year of Ecotourism.” Whether following the declaration or not, the immediate next decade saw an upswing the in the number of ecotourists among travelers. Theoretically, an ecotourist is supposed to have a strong environmental conscience with a set of open values in environmental protection.
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015).
And the education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.
Travel industry professionals who want to participate in the various ecotourism activities should adhere to a list of principles such as:
- Create cultural awareness along with environmental responsibility
- Trivialize impact in terms of social, physical, and psychological aspects
- Should result in positive experiences for both hosts and guests
- Should be gainful in terms of monetary transactions, especially for the local folks
- Recognize and acknowledge the spiritual rights and beliefs of the local people
Should Travel Agents care?
The answer is and will always remain ‘yes’. Banking on social and environmental imperative arguments, the importance of sustainability in the travel industry is much more than just being mainstream. One of the prominent consumer trends in ecotourism is a sustained interest among consumers in tourism products and services that protect the environment and respect local cultures. In fact, more than 51% of travel agents said that the concept of green travel remained constant over the last decade.
Responsible travelers generally tend to be high spending travelers owing to their higher-value in terms of staying true to the environmental policies. They are ready to invest more into the local economy and thus create a wider scale of opportunities for putting together interesting packages for them. Corporate travel is also keener on being associated with properties which are undertaking green initiatives.
As the largest global service industry, tourism can definitely be a game-changer and responsible tourism could be a significant contributor rather than just being a ‘lifestyle decision’. To keep up the positive trend in the ecotourism faculty, the need should be addressed right at the destination level and not in terms of company-by-company. Isolated ecotourism projects might not actually be as effective as to what a broader scale project might achieve.
Evaluating the scope of ecotourism showed it has potential positive contributions pertaining to the protection and conservation of endangered natural resources. Not only the biological resource reservation, it always provides a huge economic-scape for the local people to thrive on the inbound revenue as visiting wildlife habitats is always a popular tourist attraction. Nature-based tourism activities majorly include demarcating and developing national park systems.
Thus, the promotion of regulated investments for training and recruiting park staffs, equipping new national parks and working in equilibrium with the fiscal reforms are the positive symbiotic results that follow ecotourism.
Lastly, ecotourism is actually the practice of maintaining low-tourism strategies. This, thus, will be the only step when it comes to future-concerned tourism. Your travel choice today will leave a difference for the future. Traveling anywhere will leave a unique experience with you forever, try to leave your responsible mark at the place.
How to look for genuine destinations for ecotourists?
Often, an ecotourist destination property includes an on-site resort or hotel with the reclaimed environment of native fauna and floral ranges. Mostly placed in unspoiled destinations, the place also educates, on a sophisticated level, the pros and cons of the sustainable projects of that area. Most occasionally, an autonomous national or local body protects an ecotourist site. Some of the best ecotourism destinations are:
- Costa Rica
- Amazon Rainforest
- Galapagos Islands
- Sri Lanka
What has now become a major concern that with the mounting popularity of ecotourism, some of the less-than-scrupulous hotel and travel agencies are shielding themselves under the sham claims of their “green” offerings purely for luring the inexperienced ecotourists and consequently their wallets! Therefore, the best way to determine whether a destination actually meets an ecotourist’s environmental requirements is to probe with lots and lots of questions. Look whether the property receives a limited number of visitors every year as too many of them, even if ecotourists, might harm what they actually seek to protect and enjoy. Next, search whether the property provides reclamation, environmental enhancement, encourages repatriation by introducing indigenous flora-fauna on its site.
Generally, an ecotourist friendly destination will have a set of hierarchy of spaces and not just vapidly hang a prohibition-of-tourists poster to make it through the panoply of eco-friendly resort or likewise. Pedestrian activity in the wilderness zones, bird watching, trails for walking, horseback riding, or much scenes of palm-thatched guest cottages are some of parameters that help it to qualify.
Lastly, check whether the buildings and other amenities associated with the place were built with no more than minimal disturbance to the nature. To add to the contention, also know about the water and energy conservation strategies of the place. Radio systems, rural telephone, solar power energy are accepted alternatives than diesel generators.
Given the brouhaha among the travel sector about the ecotourism, which are at times tantamount to responsible and sustainable tourism might create a schmuck of the core spirit of travelling! The hyper-grandiose idea of being an ecotourist might seem too much to bear. So just being true to ones logic and responsibility would be good enough as a welcoming step.
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