First of all, if you are already on this page and aiming to become more eco-conscious whilst travelling, props to you! Let’s start with the exact definition of the word: what is ecotourism?
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education”.
So essentially, you can travel somewhere like an adventurer and support the conservation and biodiversity efforts as well as the local community at your destination. There are many great travel companies who help travellers become more aware of the world, without damaging natural or historical sites.
Who is an ecotourist?
In order to fulfil the principles of ecotourism, your visit should ideally tick off the boxes below:
- Learn more about the locals and their culture, support their businesses and respect their values.
- Buy local products and eat at local restaurants.
- Try to travel by train if you can. You can walk or bike, use an electric car or public transportation.
- Don’t waste, and never litter.
- If you can, donate directly at the conservation.
If you can take a step further, you can include volunteer work in your experience.
Why is ecotourism important?
When done right; ecotourism protects nature, biodiversity, history, culture and it supports local communities’ financial wellbeing. On a personal level, it helps us expand our perspective about the world and connect to people on a deeper level.
If it was more popular, it could put a strain on green destinations and attract opportunists who believe it’s a new market. It’s important for ethical travellers to educate themselves more on the subject and to encourage the tourism and travel industry in becoming more mindful about the limits of the environment.
What does sustainable tourism mean?
While ecotourism often focuses on remote/nature destinations – where travellers can educate themselves on the local culture and contribute to conservation, animal welfare and the local economy – sustainable tourism is a broader term for promoting sustainability in all factors involved in tourism at a destination: hotels, museums, tour operators, governments, travel agencies and more.
Mindful Feet has the perfect guide for you to distinguish these two terms.
How can you become a responsible traveller?
I know you want to explore as much as you can, but sometimes overtourism hurts natural and historical sites that are always overcrowded.
Venice is the saddest example of this in Europe, the most romantic city in the world is sinking not only because of rising water levels but also from the rising number of tourists – otherwise known as overtourism (explained below).
If you want to become a more responsible traveller, check out the suggestions below:
- Prefer travelling in the low season: This can help you avoid tourist crowds, but also provide income to those destinations where tourism is the only industry that retains the income of locals.
- Avoid going to places where tourists are crammed up and places that seem overcrowded and understaffed.
- Avoid travelling only for shopping and try to shop from local or second-hand shops for souvenirs.
- Avoid taking taxis, try to share a ride, use public transport or a city bike or rent an electric car.
- If the natural habitat of animals is ruined and wild animals are exploited, avoid it at all costs.
- If tourism seems like the only reliable income for locals, and they rely on it heavily, avoid it.
- If tourist boats or cruises have littered the seas and beaches, avoid it.
- If gentrification has pushed locals out of their houses, avoid it.
- Check out labels and certification of the hotels you stay in, try to stay in local owned guesthouses.
- Make sure to choose local restaurants and pay them with cash.
- Take tours from local guides.
What is overtourism?
Unfortunately, in the past few years, travel has become one of the biggest contributors of climate change. The rising popularity of images of lush destinations on social media encourages people to travel frequently, resulting in ‘binge-flying’. The main culprit in the tourism industry for increasing carbon emissions is airline travel; the carbon emissions of one international flight amounts to the total carbon emissions of an average person for an entire year.
It’s a genuine passion for a lot of people, however when so many of us are flying so often and causing a sudden surplus of people in the beautiful (often natural or historical) destinations we go to in particular times of the year, overtourism becomes a problem.
The negative impacts of overtourism include;
- An increase in rent prices that are caused by new holiday rentals and Airbnbs in an area where locals rent
- Crowds making it impossible to walk in historic, narrow streets
- Wildlife being scared away from their habitat, or nature eroding because of new building developments such as shopping centres, resorts and hotels in the area
Let us know if there is anything we forgot! Share tips about your own city by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media.
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