Ecotourism: definition and its characteristics

Ecotourism definition and its characteristics

Ecotourism is a term that is increasingly heard more often or also called ecological tourism, since it is one of the sectors that has grown the most in recent years within the tourism sector as a whole. Despite this, this does not mean that everyone knows how to correctly define what, in many cases, the idea of ​​an ecotourism is confused with a tourism that, in one way or another, has some kind of relationship with the environment natural, but without specifying more in the type of relationship that the tourist develops with the place he visits.

This means that many times you have an erroneous or, at least, incomplete idea of ​​what ecotourism is and all its environmental and social implications. If you want to know more about this way of traveling that is characterized by being respectful with the environments in which it is practiced, keep reading this blog.

What is ecotourism and what is not

According to the definition of ecotourism given by the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), it can be defined as “a responsible trip to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of the local population”. In this way, talking about ecotourism is talking about responsible tourism with the environment and the local society that lives in that environment. That is to say, that, unlike what can be thought of at the beginning, ecotourism is not any form of tourism that has relation with nature, but, in addition to being related to it, this relationship should always be established with respect and from an ethical perspective.

In this way, if we take as an example a trip made to the mountain, we can be talking about ecotourism since it is a natural environment. But, what really will define that our trip is an example of ecotourism or not, will be the relation that we establish with the mountain, and not only the chosen place.

In this way, if we make a walking route and our trip does not have a negative impact on the mountain (we do not deposit garbage in the environment, we do not damage the flora and fauna of the environment, we do not collaborate with businesses that exploit in an unsustainable way the natural heritage or to the local population, etc.), it can be considered an example of ecological tourism.

Whereas, if on the contrary, that same trip is carried out unsustainably, for example using facilities such as ski resorts (whose impact is terribly harmful on the mountain environment), despite being a type of tourism related to a natural environment and that can generate wealth for the local population, we can not really be talking about ecotourism, since the relationship that exists between the tourist and the environment implies the degradation of it for the realization of its tourist activity.

Principles of genuine ecotourism

The International Ecotourism Society has defined the most authentic ecotourism as one that meets certain principles. These are the seven principles of ecological tourism:

Minimize negative impacts, both for the environment and for the community.
Build respect and awareness, both environmental and cultural.
Develop positive experiences, which are as much for tourists as for the local population.
Produce financial benefits that are direct for the conservation of the place.
Guarantee the obtaining of financial resources and favor the participation in community decisions.
Favor the sensitivity to the climate, both political, environmental and social, of the places visited.
Support both universal human rights and labor laws and regulations.

These seven principles constitute a starting point to understand the depth of what ecological tourism implies and what its objectives are, both in the short and long term.

What does current tourism involve in the consumer society?

Today, within the consumer society in which we live, there is a wide variety of ways of “tourism” and, as with many of the daily activities of this type of society, its impact on the environment Environment is disastrous. This type of “consumer tourism” implies the degradation of natural environments and the exploitation of local human resources in order to obtain the maximum benefit without taking into account the impact it generates.

This way of understanding tourism is a very serious error, both from an ethical and even economic perspective. From the ethical perspective, the degradation of the environment and the abuses to the local population are unjustifiable. From an economic perspective, this type of tourism involves the destruction of the heritage that allows tourist activity to exist and sustains it, so it will end up assuming its own destruction as a sector that generates wealth.

In this way, consumer tourism is presented as the tourist version of the “throwaway” model that predominates in a large part of the activities of today’s society, which is the most negative example of any way of relating to the environment.

On the contrary, ecotourism is a model of tourism in which the realization of its own activity does not imply the destruction of the environment and the tourist attraction that allows the realization of it. Which also entails consequences, both ethical and economic. From an ethical perspective, it is a model of tourism that allows a responsible relationship with nature and with local communities. And from an economic perspective, it guarantees that the tourism activity in question constitutes a lasting activity over time, which implies that it can generate wealth indefinitely and without an expiration date and guarantees a sustainable economic future for local communities.

How to do ecotourism

Some of the most representative examples of ecotourism can be found in the management of some natural parks and marine reserves that have adapted their business model, prioritizing the conservation of the environment against the benefits of consumer tourism. This is carried out through specific policies, some of the most common are the following:

Limit the number of visitors and access with polluting vehicles: This is a fundamental measure to reduce the impact of mass tourism. Tickets must be purchased in advance, which makes it possible to better manage tourist flows, which never exceed the number of visitors that those responsible for the area can not control. Likewise, access by road is limited, making tourists have to access the protected environment in special transport designed for that purpose and avoiding the entry of private transport.

Activities without destructive impact: Naturally, the mere presence of tourists has an impact on the environment. However, those activities whose impact is not destructive or irreparable are prioritized. For example, a visit to a natural park is allowed for the day, but night camping is prohibited.

Creating a sustainable infrastructure: The best way to manage a tourism environment in a sustainable way involves an infrastructure that manages tourists in a sustainable manner. In this sense, gestures as simple as disposing of bins in the parking areas facilitates the work.

Creation of employment and dynamisation of the local economy: The creation of local employment is favored, since it requires the presence of workers on a continuous basis. For example, forest guards, veterinarians, visitor assistance staff, local crafts, etc.

Awareness: In the same way that a tangible infrastructure is created so that tourists can visit the environment in a responsible manner, they are also made aware of the importance of the environment in which they are located, as well as the importance of their collaboration so that they can continue to be preserved under the same conditions.


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