Do you remember the movie, The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio?
It was filmed on picturesque Maya Beach in Thailand. The popularity of this movie drove many tourists to the secluded cove with white sands, limestone cliffs and translucent water. The “invasion” of tourists caused significant damage to the marine ecosystem, and made the beach impossible to enjoy, so the government was forced to close it.
This is just a single example of places being ruined by tourism and one of the reasons why we should travel more responsibly. The growing market of ecotourism gives hope that many precious destinations will be saved for the future.
So, let’s talk about what ecotourism is and why it’s important.
Ecotourism, or sustainable tourism, can mean various things and can be defined by various travel practices. In simple terms, it is a decision to travel in a way that doesn’t harm your surroundings and shows respect for nature.
It is also, in a way, environmental conservation. Sustainable travel means understanding the needs of the environment, as well as the locals, and helping to improve the quality life for both. Additionally, it means preserving historical landmarks and learning more about the history of the area you’re visiting. Green travel is also a subjective notion with different connotations for different people, from staying in sustainable accommodations to using green transportation and more.
Ecotourism as a Growing Industry
In 2019, the ecotourism market size was estimated at $181.1 billion, but it is predicted to reach $333.8 billion by 2027. These expectations come from a growing number of tourists who want to travel sustainably, as well as the resulting increase in more eco-friendly accommodations.
The biggest motivation for people who decide to travel sustainably are their previous travels where they have seen the visible impact of tourism on certain destinations. For some, the motivation can also come from seeing the negative effects of traditional tourism in their home country.
The Importance of Ecotourism
We’ve mentioned Maya Beach becoming completely unavailable both for tourists and locals because of irresponsible tourism. Even Machu Picchu has been affected by too many visitors being at the citadel at the same time. Venice is another famous example of tourism harming a destination, with the city sinking rapidly, resources being pushed to mass capacity and the stones on historic buildings crumbling.
Sustainable travel means we can contribute to preserving such treasures, not only for future generations, but also for our future travels. This type of traveling has other benefits as well. It allows travelers to immerse themselves in unique cultures. By respecting the local culture and lifestyle, you are getting a travel experience unparalleled to any other and you are more likely to encounter welcoming residents. It is tourism on a deeper level as it provides happiness for both the travelers and the hosts. Finally, ecotourism promotes economic sustainability, as you spend your money on products made by the community and, therefore, contribute to the local economy.
How to Travel Responsibly
People who want to travel responsibly and sustainably are faced with various obstacles, including not being able to afford the extra expenditure and a limited number of appealing destinations. However, there are green vacation activities you can include in every trip:
- Florence (Italy) has introduced exploring the city with electric golf carts in the tourist offer. This is a fantastic idea because golf carts are easy to maintain and drive.
- Using public transport is a better option than renting a car.
- Whenever possible, walk or ride a bicycle.
- Try to avoid overcrowded tourist sites or visit popular destinations during less busy hours.
- Support the economy by finding a local restaurant sourcing locally produced ingredients.
- Skip traditional hotels whenever you can and look for small, locally owned accommodations instead.
It goes without saying, on your travels you must not, in any way, harm the environment or the animals in it. This includes not supporting attractions promoting unfairly caged animals or where the animals are forced to participate in performances that cause them discomfort and pain. Seek to find adventures where you can observe the animals in their natural habitat, without direct interaction or harm being caused.
While there can be some obstacles to sustainable travel, ecotourism is becoming more available now than it ever was. Many companies can help you book eco-friendly experiences, and you can plan your trip using tips from various eco-oriented online resources like this one.