The term ecotourism dates back to the 80s when people became aware that planet Earth is in danger and that they need to take better care of it. Once humanity had realised the harmful effects our behaviour has on the planet, global organisations, such as the United Nations came up with long-term goals to deal with it. As tourism was also responsible for pollution due to carbon emissions caused by transport, something had to be done.
The UNs Sustainable Tourism Goals, a plethora of environmental movies, such as Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, combined with pressure from the media, managed to wake up both the tourism trade and tourists alike and encourage them to think about more ecological ways of enjoying the natural wonders of the world.
Ecotourism is slowly gaining traction around the world — probably because technology and fast internet connections are creating a greater appreciation of nature and other things that really matter.
What Is Ecotourism?
To put it simply, ecotourism is a form of niche tourism in which tourism service providers structure travel itinerary packages for tourists with the aim of minimising their impact on the environment of the places they have chosen to visit. Moreover, they also support the local community and cultural heritage of the destination.
Those who choose ecotourism don’t think about getting the most out of a place for the money they’ve spent. Instead, they focus on having minimal impact, or no impact at all, on the area and on financially supporting the local communities whose livelihoods are enhanced through ecotourism.
Ecotourism in Practice
If the definition of ecotourism sounds too complicated, let’s talk about it in simpler terms. An ecotourist makes different choices during their trip compared to a regular tourist.
Ecotourists often choose modest accommodation that easily blends into the environment, utilises earth-friendly energy resources, and practices biowaste management and recycling. Whenever possible, they use transportation that does not pollute the air and the environment in general or attempt to offset their air travel carbon emissions with credits. Depending on the terrain, their most common activity picks are walking, cycling, rowing, or horse-riding.
Ecotourists have a goal to minimally affect nature and do something to preserve it for future generations. They are usually highly educated, carefully prepare for travel trips, in good physical shape, and can easily adjust to any situation.
They use this way of travelling to learn about a country from the locals and be part of their customs and culture. Also, they tend to support the locals by eating their country’s specialities and buying only hand-made souvenirs.
Best Countries for Ecotourism
As ecotourism is not yet developed everywhere in the world, here are the top three places where you can experience it at its best.
South Africa is a country that has a lot to offer eco-tourists. When it comes to ecotourism, you have plenty of choices here. LUX* Resorts and Hotels has embarked on a journey towards a carbon-clean future, known as ‘Tread Lightly’, while eco-friendly lodges include Asilia Africa, Grootbos Forest Lodge, and Amakhala Safari Lodge to name but a few.
Many members of the African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta) also comply with the associations Charter for Sustainable Tourism, while members of the non-profit organisation, Fair Trade Tourism, practice ecotourism in South Africa by being certified as providing fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.
Unless you are from Australia, New Zealand is by far the most distant place on the map. However, even if you need to travel 15 hours or more to get there, it is totally worth it. Just remember to off-set your carbon emissions.
New Zealand has a lot of endemic animals and pristine beaches, but those are not the major highlights. Volcanos are the primary reason why ecotourists adore New Zealand so much. Also, thanks to The Hobbit, the perfect nature of New Zealand has become immensely attractive to people around the world. For this reason, New Zealanders decided to save the complete movie set and use it as a film-tourism attraction.
Apart from being popular as a surfing destination, Bali has a lot more to offer. The monkey forest in which you can enjoy the beautiful jungle and monkeys as you walk is a must-see place. Moreover, something you don’t see every day is the rice fields where the locals work while tourists take photos.
The term ecotourism is widely accepted in theory. However, when it comes to practising it, we are still far from calling it a trend — it is currently practised only by 5% of the world’s population. In case you have never tried anything like this, don’t hesitate. Leave out fancy hotels from your next travel itinerary and help your planet thrive.