Top Ten Sites for the Conscious Tourist
If we’re lucky enough to afford them, holidays are one of our great life experiences. Ecotourism is one of the industry’s fastest growing sectors.
In an increasingly unstable world, tourism grows annually with an astonishing £510 billion spend worldwide. (UN World Tourism Organisation)
But, studies show that most of this income goes back to the richer countries rather than remaining in the host countries. As well as creating opportunity for destination’s communities, tourism has its negative impacts
Drinking water may be siphoned off for use in tourist resorts. Coastal ecosystems may be built over by tourist complexes, threatening unique plant and marine life.
As people get educated about the potential impact of their sunshine holiday, eco tourism is on the rise. ‘Experiential tourism’ – ecotourism, nature, heritage, cultural and adventure tourism – is a sector expected to grow fast over the next two decades.
The label might say ECO tourism, but are they all as eco as we think?
Sadly, not all practice the ethics and ideals of genuine ecotourism.
In Kenya, a top destination for nature and eco tourism, the Maasai and their cattle were expelled from some of their long inhabited lands in the Maasai Mara Reserve where safari operators don’t want the wildlife disturbed or tourists upset.
But without understanding that the land actually belongs to the Maasai and that the balance between the wildlife, environment and the cows has to be maintained for the wildlife to survive, the community remains endangered.
Statistics show that poverty has increased in Kenya and that the incidence of poverty is comparatively greater around conservation areas where tourist activity is highest.
But, there is much that is good.
In Equador, the Santa Lucia Lodge strives to conserve and protect their forest and provide sustainable income to the local people. It trains local guides & provides courses in cooking and administration. The Lodge holds classes in the local elementary school on tree planting and recycling waste.
In Thailand, an NGO, CBT-I (previously known as REST) has helped develop training programmes for communities to improve or preserve their way of life.
Guest stay with Thai communities, cooking and eating local food, trying their hand at fishing, farming and local arts and crafts.
As a growth sector, eco tourism has many benefits, and much to improve on. Fair trade for example, throughout the traveller experience would be one.
Good business practice by the operators, fair deals for host communities and genuine protection programmes for the destinations and resources are what the conscious traveller should be looking for.
Before we plump for the glossy PR pics of an eco tourism company, check out the credentials. Do some research. There are some amazing operators out there but not all are as they seem.
Eco Tourism is a wonderful ideal. We should be part of making this industry truly the ideal.