What’s Ecotourism?

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Ecotourism emphasizes appreciation and protection of the natural environment, with minimal environmental impact and an educational aspect. Critics are concerned about displacement of native peoples, but promoters argue it creates a valuable market for conservation. Popular in Africa, South America, and Asia, ecotourism companies offer packages with details on environmental action. Certification organizations can help consumers avoid greenwashing.

Ecotourism is a form of tourism that places a strong emphasis on the appreciation and protection of the natural environment, with ecotourists traveling to regions of ecological interest around the world. This form of tourism is also sometimes called ecological tourism, nature travel or responsible tourism. Like other forms of tourism, ecotourism touches on some very complex environmental, social and ethical issues and a number of professional organizations have come together to create a firm definition for ecotourism so that standards can be set for ecotourism programs .

To qualify as ecotourism, several criteria must be met. The most important criterion is, in many people’s eyes, minimal environmental impact, as people don’t want to harm the natural environment while trying to appreciate it. Ecotourism also typically includes an educational aspect, with visitors learning about the environments they visit, and there is a strong emphasis on conservation. In some cases, people may even join an amenity program during an ecotourism trip, doing something to actively benefit the environment while enjoying it.

Ecotourism critics believe that tourism in sensitive areas should not be encouraged at all, even when companies meet their environmental responsibility claims. Some critics are also concerned about the displacement of native peoples, and the ecotourism industry has responded to these concerns by placing greater emphasis on native cultures and traditional ways of life. To critics, ecotourism seems like a way to enjoy a tourist trip without acknowledging the environmental consequences of tourism, and this is a major bone of contention between some environmental activists and the ecotourism industry.

Promoters of ecotourism point out that without ecotourism some regions of the world may not be saved. Ecotourism creates a valuable market for pristine nature and the natural environment, encouraging governments and communities to prioritize the conservation of natural habitat.

Ecotourism is especially popular in Africa, South America and Asia, where largely untouched tracts of land still exist in some regions. Tourists may travel to various locations by animals, boats or on foot, and while on site are generally encouraged to camp or use the basic facilities provided by the tourism company. Businesses that cater to ecotourists typically keep luxuries to a minimum, with the understanding that luxury often has a negative environmental impact. Once there, tourists can take guided tours, visit interesting sites in the area, or interact with the natives to learn more about their culture.

Numerous ecotourism companies offer an assortment of packages to people interested in embarking on an ecotourism adventure, and these companies typically include details of what action they are taking to benefit the environment. For consumers who are concerned about greenwashing and misleading advertising information, it can be helpful to get a recommendation from a certification organization that requires its members to undergo inspection and adhere to certain principles.

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