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Ecotourism in practice



New Tourism is tourism that is sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible, and mutually beneficial to visitors and host countries.

Tourism Intelligence International.

We are committed to developing, operating, and marketing tourism in a sustainable manner; that is, all forms of tourism which make a positive contribution to the natural and cultural environment, which generate benefits for the host communities, and which do not put at risk the future livelihood of local people.

Article 1.3 of the Statement of Commitment, Tour Operators’ Initiative

Being an ‘eco-friendly’ tour operator or travel agent brings many benefits such as reduced costs, wildlife conservation, cultural understanding, and more ecotourists. Here are some guidelines to consider for a ‘green’ travel agency or tour operator.

Economic policy

How much of your profit is returned to the local community and wildlife projects?

Choose a project that interests your company, such as rhino conservation or village water supplies, and set yourself a goal, create the timeline with your staff and then inform your clients of your goal.

How do you support local camps and villagers that provide the traveler with local gifts?

Do you give your clients tips on what to purchase? Do you purchase local gifts to give to your clients? Do the lodges and camps you use have a local handicraft shop?

Environmental policy

How do you offer local environmental insights for your travelers?

Do you give your clients the Kenya Wildlife Service Park Regulations, a great guide to the ‘dos and don’ts’ of wildlife watching?

How do you reduce environmental impact with your tours?

How do you ensure that your drivers don’t drive off the road in national parks? Explain to your clients the potential damage of off-road driving and ask them to help protect the parks by not asking the driver to do so.

Are your staff trained to be co-friendly?

Do you have an eco-policy briefing for new staff? If not, ask one of your staff to mentor new staff on your company’s eco-policies.

How involved are you in regional initiatives to conserve the environment?

Start looking for partners that will help you, help themselves, and protect the wilderness areas at the same time!

Social responsibility

What pre-departure cultural information do you provide the traveler?

Create pre-departure information that provides helpful hints on how to visit local cultures. Give background information on cultural ‘dos and don’ts’ for each area your client is visiting.

How do you introduce the local culture to your travelers?

Do you work with the camps and lodges to create cultural talks and tours? Do you allow the clients to spend time with the local tribes while traveling?

How many of your company’s staff are local citizens?

Working with local citizens gives you the local information that you and your clients need.

 

Ecotourism as a part of sustainable tourism

Tourism is like a fire: you can use it to cook your soup, but it can also burn down your house.

Asian proverb

There are no strict definitions of green tourism, sustainable tourism, and ecotourism, which is a problem, as organizations, companies, and individuals tend to use the same terms to mean different things, but the WTO sees the concept of sustainable tourism as something that covers all forms of tourism, including mass tourism. In addition, sustainable tourism can be developed in natural areas and urban areas. Ecotourism is concerned with natural areas, with a focus on ecology, as the name suggests. It’s a kind of sustainable tourism that focuses on ecology.

Sustainable means that the activity can go on for a long period of time. Sustainability means carrying capacity. It’s about tourism carrying as the maximum number of people that can visit a tourist destination at the same time, without damaging the physical, economic, sociocultural environment, and without producing an unacceptable decrease in the quality of visitor satisfaction.

There are three major areas of tourism impact – environmental, sociocultural, and economic. And in each sphere sustainable tourism has a mechanism for calculating the carrying capacity of a destination. Sustainable tourism works in all sectors and at all levels. Large companies, small and medium enterprises, host communities, and of course, the individual tourist.

Sustainable tourism

Growing concern over the negative impacts of tourism during the 1990s led eventually to the concept of sustainable tourism or sustainable tourism development. Such development should:

· use environmental resources in a way that maintains their essential ecological processes and helps to conserve a region’s natural heritage and biodiversity;

· respects the sociocultural authenticity of host communities and conserve their built and living cultural heritage;

· contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance;

· ensure viable, long-term economic activities which will, in turn, provide economic benefits to everybody, especially to local people;

· create stable employment and generate income-earning opportunities and social services for the host communities.

From this, we can see that sustainable tourism development is not just a response to the negative environmental impacts of tourism, but to sociocultural and economic impacts, too.

Sustainable tourism is not the same as ecotourism or green tourism. Ecotourism aims to provide tourists with the chance to understand a natural or cultural environment without permanently altering it. Green tourism is essentially the same in its aims as ecotourism, but the term green is used to create a contrast with white tourism (skiing and winter sports) or blue tourism (sea, sand, and sun). Sustainable tourism is far more wide-reaching concept than either green tourism or ecotourism, and is one that seeks sustainability in all aspects of tourism, from the management of city centre hotels or the recycling of aircraft cabin waste from tourist destinations in the Antarctic.

A wide range of national and international, private and public sector bodies such as the World Tourism Organization (WTO) or the World Travel and Trade Council (WTTC) have issued guidelines as to what constitutes sustainable tourism. Thus, it is felt to be possible for providers of mass tourism such as tour operators to be eco-friendly. A key concept in determining sustainability is carrying capacity. This term refers to the maximum number of visitors a tourist destination or attraction can support without any lasting negative effects on the host community.

 




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