There comes a point in our life when they feel an urge to escape from the prison of monotony that life becomes over time and just enjoy a peaceful moment on our own or with our loved ones. We pack our luggage and get ready for a routine break: goodbye melancholy, welcome holidays. This little escapade that travelling presents allows us to be revitalized and go back home stronger and in better spirits to continue our day-to-day occupations. Even though travelling is simply travelling to some, ecotourism has a special sparkle worth considering before making travel plans.
Since World War Two, the number of people travelling across the globe has increased considerably; today, it has reached 1.4 billion international tourist arrival per year . As we strive forward to change our practices into more sustainable ones, the concepts of responsible tourism and sustainable tourism are quickly gaining ground in the touristic sector.
Responsible tourism encourages the traveler to be more conscious of his/her impact on the host country’s environment, society and economy. Similarly, sustainable tourism causes the traveler to be more environmentally conscious during his/her stay and to support local economies. Since travelling is now a must for many people, it is important to understand its impacts on the destination country and choose the best ways to travel.
Put simply, ecotourism is the responsible travel to natural spots with the minimum impact on the environment while supporting local communities financially. Instead of busy cities and expensive malls, ecotourism offers the traveler an exciting, new journey in nature and its landscapes and wildlife. It also provides an exquisite environment for common activities such as zip lining, mountaineering, hiking within undisturbed regions. Besides the obvious natural aspect of ecotourism, it also supports local communities to live in their traditional ways and make money by selling their crafts and knowledge.
With wildlife crime now on the rise, many animal species are now threatened with extinction or are aggressively wounded for body parts. African elephants, for example, have suffered a lot from poaching; they have been killed by thousands just for the black market ivory trade and more have been wounded indirectly during shootings. In order to prevent such crimes and to protect these animals, money is needed. As eco-tourists visit national parks and areas where animals are endangered or subject to illegal trade, the funds obtained through safaris and related activities go into conservation and protection of the parks and animals.
Ecotourism helps massively in environmental conservation. The Galapagos Islands, a territory of Ecuador, is such a common example. This volcanic archipelago is home to several endangered animal species such as the Galapagos Penguins, the Flightless Cormorant, the Fur Seal, the Galapagos finches and has some 200 endemic plant species . It is a part of paradise on Earth for nature lovers both in terms of the natural scenery and the unique plethora of animals. Funds for conservation is generated as tourists visit the islets and encourage others to do so. In the same manner, valuable national parks can be designed to protect endangered animals and plants.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world nowadays, and many developing countries rely on it for financial growth. While traditional tourism can have returns of 20% to the local communities, for ecotourism it can be as much as 95% . Of course for the needy populations, this represents a huge amount. By using the natural assets appropriately, low income populations can generate money to make progress and to alleviate poverty. This can be in the form of job creation, increasing knowledge and capacity building and obtaining international funds for eco-projects.
In the Republic of Congo, for example, one of the poorest countries in the world, ecotourism has been on the rise during the past decades for mountain gorilla trekking in the Virunga mountains. Though a one-day trek costs $400, adventurous and curious tourists enjoy the steamy jungle just to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Given the number of jobs that this gorilla industry creates and the tourists that they attract, the Congolese thus help in their protection instead of poaching them.
In any society, the local customs and traditions are sacred and are the essence of their existence. As the world becomes smaller with technological advances, younger generations are more exposed to a new way of life. Traditions are overlooked or blended into modern ones for a modern world. Preserving the roots of culture is very important for many nations, especially the indigenous tribes. The best eco tourist destinations are often located in distant places inhabited by exclusive groups of individuals who have their traditions and way of doing things. Ecotourism respects and encourages local practices; on the one hand, travelers learn and are involved in new customs and traditions, on the other hand, the authenticity of such nations is preserved.
Without a doubt, ecotourism is an unforgettable experience not only for nature lovers but for common tourists who want to have a new experience. It can be an eye opener for many as they interact with nature in a deeper way and learn about new customs and traditions. What’s more, as they share their experience with their families and friends, they spread environmental information thus encouraging others to be more environmentally conscious. Such zeal can go a long way as in financing conservation projects right from home. At the end of the day, this memorable passage pushes one to embrace more sustainable practices and help save what’s left on the planet.