Dec, 2020 - By
The world is going through massive changes every second and many of the changes are happening due to anthropological reasons. Human behavior, as said by psychologists, is a very complex phenomenon. While on one side the behavior results in productivity, in other scenarios they result in some catastrophic damages. For years we have bent the ecosystems to suit our needs such as deforestation, building up reservoirs on rivers, tourism, etc. Mass tourism results in pollution and the natural harmony of the place breaks. Research carried out by Imogen Napper, a National Geographic Explorer and a marine scientist at the University of Plymouth in England, shows that at the Everest basecamps, where climbers congregate, microplastic concentration was approximately 119,000 pieces/cubic meter. However, that is not the end, upon deeper research, it was revealed that plastics are present near the 8850-meter summit too. This proves that hundreds of people who climb Everest, leaver trash behind thus polluting the natural ecosystem of the place. On closer inspection, it can be easily said that places which are flocked by tourists all the time suffer from damages and gradually get destroyed. There are many places on earth that are very serene, sensitive, and untouched but need conservation to sustain. To help such places the term Ecotourism was coined.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as a way of traveling responsibly to conserve the environment of the natural areas. It also includes the wellbeing of the local people and involves education and interpretation. There are tourism industries, institutions, and a network of individuals engaged in sustainable traveling projects and are educated about ecological issues. According to Australian National Ecotourism, the term eco-tourism can be defined as environmentally sustainable tourism, focusing mainly on conserving, appreciating, and experiencing areas that are ecologically rich.
The main concept of eco-tourism began in the late 1970s, as a way of opposing conventional mass tourism. Other than ecological conservation eco-tourism also has other purposes such as educating the travelers, providing funds, and empowering local communities to understand different cultures, etc. Ecotourism has been taken very seriously since the 1980s in a mission to preserve the natural beauty of the earth for future generations.
Ecotourism has become one of the most critical steps towards sustainable living and hence the importance has grown a lot in the last few years.
Ecotourism is crucial for both the planet and the people. As an eco-tourist, it is very satisfactory to travel without carrying the guilt of harming the natural balance of the place. This helps the traveler to get accustomed to local cultures without having a hand in polluting them. Ecotourism is not just a traveling experience but is also a learning experience, which increases the admiration of the place and inspires the traveler to protect it.
Ecotourism is based on various principles. These principles have shaped the layout of this industry and made it unique. All these principles are based on two thoughts; improving the modes of traveling and bringing up different cultures, which were pushed back for a long. Ecotourism not only focuses on the betterment of the environment but also on the social ecology of the places. The seven major principles of ecotourism are-
In many countries such as Madagascar, Kenya, Nepal, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, ecotourism is not just a marginal activity, it is the industry on which the countries' economy is based. Ecotourism in these places represents a major portion of the economic activities and gross domestic product. Ecotourism is often misinterpreted, mainly by self-proclaimed eco-tourists as traveling through nature. Many people think that traveling through nature is the real interpretation of eco-tourism, however, the actual meaning of eco-tourism lies in understanding the economy and the environment of the places. Ecotourism has a lot of advantages such as-
The businesses such as bed-and-breakfast, lodges, travel product manufacturers, etc., are also leaning towards eco-tourism and producing several sustainable products and are also improving their marketing slogans, to participate in the eco-tourism movement. However, getting the ecotourism certificate is not so easy and the businesses have to fulfill a lot of requirements and go through evaluation processes to attain the label of sustainability. The several criteria included in the evaluation are-
Right now, there is no international certificate of ecotourism because of the diversity of regional interpretations, flora and fauna, ecosystems, local prosperity, and environmental degradation. Depending on all these factors, there are more than 50 ecotourism certifications such as Rainforest Alliance, Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label, Ecotourism Kenya, Fair Trade Tourism Alliance, Costa Rica’s Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, Australia’s ECO Certification, etc.
Even though ecotourism has so many benefits, there are some disadvantages that come with the project.
2017 is the year of sustainability, as declared by the United Nations. The 5 topmost projects which are most socially responsible and ecofriendly are-
Coral reefs are among the most beautiful creations of the world. However, due to coral bleaching, the reefs around the world are slowly being destroyed. To prevent this, Vaidotas Kirsys, a marine biologist started the Coral Line project at a resort in the Maldives known as Gili Lankanfushi.
José Koechlin von Stein bought land in 1975 in Puerto Maldonado and created Inkaterra Hotel: the Reserva Amazónica Lodge, which is an ecofriendly hotel. Nowadays the nonprofit organization of Inkaterra known as the Inkaterra Asociación is on a mission to conserve the natural environment, cultural heritage, and archeological resources of Peru
Tongsai Bay, which started in 1985 is known as one of the most environment-friendly hotels in the world. The main owner of the hotel, late Akorn Hoontrakul made sure that not even one tree was cute while building the hotel. Due to this even after 30 years, more than 50 species of butterflies and birds can be spotted here.
Nested in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Kasbah du Toubkal first opened in an attempt to save the place from the adverse effects of mass tourism. The lodge is situated in a Berber community. The profits generated from ecotourism are mainly used for educating the employees of the lodge about conserving nature.
The East Frisian Island of Juist has taken up the challenge to maintain the environmental and cultural peace of the region. This island even has a green university that educates children living on the island about sustainability.
Some experts consider eco-tourism as a greenwash process, which is trying to cover up the environmental issues under the pretense of preserving nature. However, no matter what the intentions are, ecotourism will affect the people and animals living there. This can be both good and bad. Hence, to set up a proper eco-tourism project, ecological management, planning, and local commitments are needed. Apart from these, the responsibility of maintaining sustainability remains on the tourists.