What Is Ecotourism And How Does It Work
What Is Ecotourism?
I have not met someone who does not enjoy nature.
The blue skies, the sunset, the goats at pasture and even just staring into nothingness, beyond the horizon as far as your eyes can go.
The International Ecotourism Society, in 2015, defined ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. In layman terms, it is traveling responsibly to natural areas without disturbing the “flora”, ” fauna” and improving cultural heritage.
Principles Of Ecotourism
According to the International Ecotourism Society, the very heart of Ecotourism is based on the following principles;
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
- Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Some Terms In Ecotourism
- Ecotourist- One who travels to visit ecotourism sites.
- Ecolodging- an accommodation built for the tourists but with minimal disruption of the environment.
- Ecotrekking- these are activities designed to heighten the tourists awareness about the environmental or cultural surrounding.
- Agritourism- a form of Ecotourism that encourages tourists to explore agricultural life in rural communities.
Growth Of Ecotourism In Recent Years
In recent years, there has been a surge in the growth of Ecotourism in recent years and some factors were elucidated.
- There has been a routineness to traditional tourism and individuals wanted a new challenge, which is both educationally and aesthetically thrilling.
- Campaigns for the protection of the ecosystem have grown over the years. People have become more aware of keeping and encouraging the thriving of our ecosystem, its protection, and dangers associated with being laissez-faire towards it.
- Ecotourism has helped protect a very sensitive environment and wildlife. A lot of laws have been put in place as regards wildlife conservation and the like.
- With the increasing information about this, travels to ecotourism sites are cheaper and there is increased access to even supposed hinterland.
- Tourists also want to be seen as eco-friendly and law-abiding.
- Income is generated by the local people.
- A lot of funding also goes on for the preservation of the ecosystem.
How Does Ecotourism Work?
Using the African ecotourism as a case study, it can be elucidated that this is still a developing industry here.
The workings around the system, is goal oriented. The tourists come bearing their activities in mind, and these are executed with flexibility that removes the feel of the activities being “routine”.
The eco-tourists, come bearing expectations. Eg they expect that in addition to seeing what brought them in the first place, they also experience the “culture feel”. This could comprise of
- Learning about the ways of life of the people hence breeding love, unity and tolerance.
- Appreciate the music, dressing etc of the people.
- History is learnt
- There is a wider scope to languages as new phrases, as such, are picked up.
Differences Between Ecotourism And Mass Tourism
- Ecotourists travel to sites surrounded by nature as opposed to mass tourists who are keen for “distractions”
- Travelers in ecotourism make their own travel plans and arrangement as opposed to mass tourists
- Ecotourism offers more nature-related and “physical” activities like mountain climbing, bird watching, etc unlike the look-see of mass tourism.
- The range of activities or expectations in ecotourism is smaller as compared to mass tourism.
- Ecotourists tend to travel in smaller groups and might stay for longer periods perhaps for research purposes as opposed to mass tourism where the fun is in the numbers.
- The environment and natural habitat therein are protected. For some countries especially third world countries, their economy is intertwined with the natural resources. The forests, game reserves, minerals etc are a veritable source of finance for the country. Losing this could lead to a crash in the economy.
- Jobs are created in this sector. This goes a long way to help the local population. Asides the money in their pockets, hands on skills are also learnt which goes a very long way.
- As regards the travelers and tourists, Ecotourism increases the knowledge base of the environment and conservative efforts that can be made like recycling, etcetera.
- Ecotourism brings developmentin its wake as the needs of the locals are identified and help can be provided.
- The sites are at risk of environmental collapse because tourists most times visit environmentally fragile areas.
- Upsetting of the wildlife by littering garbage, or by removing of some plants, perhaps for research purposes.
- Sometimes because of large visitor influx forests are cleared to build roads or accommodations.
- In some circumstances, there could be large influx of visitors.
- Sometimes visiting can be done in really sensitive periods e.g mating, hatching etc.
- There could be displacement of people as happened to the Maasai in East Africa.
- Threat to culture. This could be as a result of strangers mixing in for tourism purposes.
- Mismanagement by the government.
Jobs/Career In Ecotourism.
- Environmental engineers, Architects etc. They help in the construction of ecolodges.
- Wildlife managers- They help to conserve and manage the environment.
- Eco-tour guides/environmental educators help explain the environment and offer advice to tourists.
Related: All you need to know about DS-160
The international agency responsible for ecotourism
- THE INTERNATIONAL ECOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
Some Ecotourism Destinations
- Iceland- due to its beautiful and very serene scenery.
- Antarctica- For Whale and Penguins sighting.
- Palau- known for being a home to coral reefs and different types of fishes.
- Kenya- for African Safari. For viewing of Lions, Giraffes, Rhinos etc
- Norway- To visit the fjords.
Examples Of Its Activities
- Jungle trekking
- Visitation of waterfalls
Ecotourism is a very interesting and vibrant aspect of tourism. It not only generates funds, but also makes the travelers aware of efforts that should be made to conserve the habitat.