Eco-tourism is a growing trend in travel that promotes environmental conservation and cultural exchange. It involves choosing eco-friendly accommodations, supporting local businesses, minimizing waste and resource consumption, and respecting wildlife and local cultures.
It also involves taking part in educational activities and donating profits to support local communities. It’s important to avoid zoos and other attractions that exploit animals for profit.
Choosing Your Means of Transportation
The way that you travel has an impact on the destinations that you visit. Ecotourism explores ways to minimize this impact, which often starts with choosing the right mode of transportation.
For example, walking is a great way to explore a new destination and discover hidden gems that you might miss with faster modes of transportation. Many famous treks like the Inca Trail and Camino de Santiago use this form of travel to allow participants to truly connect with their surroundings and become more aware of environmental impact.
Other forms of sustainable travel include using electric scooters, renting bikes or car rentals instead of taking cabs or planes and minimizing the use of air conditioning when staying at hotels and other locations. Some travelers even offset their carbon footprint when they fly, which can help to reduce the environmental impacts associated with traveling.
Choosing Your Accommodations
A huge component of responsible travel is staying at accommodations that minimize impact on the environment. This can be as simple as choosing a hostel instead of a hotel, or as complex as staying at an eco-lodge that uses renewable energy and sustainably sourced organic food.
If you want to go even further, try finding an eco-lodge that works with local communities on sustainability initiatives. This allows you to engage with the culture of your destination while still protecting it from overtourism.
A good place to start is by researching your destination’s sustainability ranking on the Global Destination Sustainability Index, which ranks cities based on environmental impact and community development. Also, look for accommodations that are close to the attractions you plan on visiting – this will cut down on transportation costs. If possible, choose a sustainable lodge that offers guided tours or other activities that promote the preservation of nature and culture. For example, Xala with Heart in Mexico works with local communities to regenerate and restore natural areas while spearheading socially conscious initiatives.
Choosing Your Activities
Taking part in local activities during travel is a big component of ecotourism. This helps the local economy, promotes cultural exchange and preserves traditional practices. It also reduces the need for transportation and minimizes waste production.
Purchasing locally-sourced goods and souvenirs is another way to support the local community during travel. This helps local artisans, whose livelihoods depend on this type of tourism. It also ensures that the goods are ethically sourced and not obtained through forced labor or exploitation of indigenous people.
Preserving wildlife is a core principle of ecotourism, and this includes avoiding any activities that involve animals that are treated unkindly. For example, riding elephants or swimming with dolphins may seem harmless to tourists, but they are harmful to the animals. This is why choosing responsible tour companies is a key aspect of ecotourism. The best way to do this is by supporting locally-owned businesses, which are more likely to follow sustainable practices and implement energy-saving policies.
Choosing Your Transportation
Choosing your means of travel will have the biggest impact on your trip’s environmental footprint. Avoiding flights whenever possible and opting for trains or bikes can help to lower your carbon emissions. When you must fly, opting for direct flights and purchasing carbon offsets can help to mitigate your environmental impact.
Similarly, be mindful of the attractions you choose to visit. Be wary of any that promote animal interaction as they may not treat their animals well. For example, riding elephants or swimming with dolphins can cause harm to these animals and should be avoided.
As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, sustainable tourism will become increasingly important. By exploring eco-tourism and implementing its progressive guiding principles into your travel plans, you can ensure your trips leave only a positive impact on the environment and local communities. The most sustainable destinations are home to natural areas and local people who value sustainability, and that is where you’ll find the best opportunities for an authentic experience.