Eco-tourism has grown substantially in recent decades. Travellers are seeking more than a simple resort getaway, and are often in search of something more meaningful. This includes holidays where they can experience local culture and wildlife in a way that actually benefits the places they are visiting.
Eco-Tourism is a form of travel which aims to have a minimal impact on the culture and environment. Typically, Eco-tourism steers away from the big corporate resorts or tours and focuses on supporting locally run accommodations and tours instead. This allows the destination to be more sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Eco-tourism is important for a number of reasons. Here are the top reasons why it’s so important today.
Eco-tourism is designed to support the local way of life in a way that doesn’t change it. That means fair wages for employees and money going directly to the community. The reduced impacts include helping the region maintain its cultural identity. Often places that are popular with tourists start to lose that identity.
Eco-tourism aims to preserve the environment. This means not clearing large plots of land for accommodations, and building structures in a sustainable way. Hotels will not pollute, practice safe waste management, and will not destroy the habitats of local wildlife.
A key principle of Eco-tourism is ensuring that the local economy benefits. Large corporate resorts will underpay staff and profits are rarely reinvested in the community. With Eco-tourism, the hotels will often be locally owned and run. All payments go directly to the business owners and their staff, generally, this is a more fair wage. Furthermore, local businesses such as cafes or restaurants offer local delicacies furthering the economic benefits.
Eco-Tourism can be a highly rewarding experience for travellers and local communities. This form of travel offers tourists a way to get closer to other cultures, which is a great opportunity to learn new things. While we all need a beach vacation from time to time, spending time in nature, and learning about local customs can be equally if not more valuable.
Eco-tourism is meant to be sustainable, meaning that the income generated from tourists will help conserve the environment and provide enough income that local business owners will not seek opportunities elsewhere. When the environment is conserved, it allows tourists to visit for generations to come.
Costa Rica is often thought of as the mecca for eco-tourism and one of the early adopters that paved the way for the industry to expand around the globe. Costa Rica is a peaceful and highly educated nation with no military. It is a safe place to visit and is covered in lush rainforests. The Cloud Forest of Monteverde is a must-see when visiting Costa Rica. The name derives from the forest being at a high altitude so it’s literally in the cloud. Thanks to eco-tourism and conservation efforts this forest will hopefully be a tourist destination for generations.
Eco-tourism is a booming industry in New Zealand. This island nation has some of the more remarkable natural wonders in the world. Eco-tourism in New Zealand includes marine wildlife, spending time in nature, and discovering a variety of land animals including the albatross and penguins. The government of New Zealand is dedicated to supporting sustainable tourism, meaning a lot of the funds go to boosting the local economy and conservation efforts.
The Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador, are one of the most famous conservation areas in the world. Rich in biodiversity, the government of Ecuador has invested heavily in maintaining the region so eco-tourism can be sustainable in the future. A limited number of tourists are allowed in any given year and must travel with a registered guide.
Panama, which borders Costa Rica, has caught on to the eco-tourism trends in the region. Many of us don’t think of Panama as a tourism hotspot, we often only hear about the Panama Canal. However, Panama has a ton to offer and visitors will often rave about their experiences there. Panama has extensive shorelines on both the Atlantic and Pacific, offering conservation efforts for marine life. Additionally, its dense forests are swarming with wildlife. Efforts are being made to preserve these habitats and ensure the local population benefits for generations.
Similar to Panama & Costa Rica, Nicaragua is nestled in the rainforests of Central America. It offers extremely lush rainforests with an estimated 30,000 various species found in this small country. Tourism is still growing in Nicaragua, contributing less than 10% of the GDP. However, there are many options for eco-tourism available in the country with many lodges providing accommodations and activities such as surfing and hiking widely available. Some of the most popular sites to visit are 2 large volcanos Ometepe & Cerro Negro.
Rwanda is best known for offering tourists an opportunity to come face-to-face with mountain gorillas in the wilderness. Much of tourism in Rwanda is eco-tourism as there are plenty of benefits to the local economy. Additionally, lots of effort is put into conservation. The more tourists go to see the Gorillas the more money there is to pay rangers to keep them safe. Gorillas are commonly poached which is greatly reducing their numbers.
Rwanda has had a dark history, highlighted by the genocide in 1994. Rwanda has turned a corner is now has a thriving economy and a highly educated population.
The United States has plenty of options to offer visitors from home and abroad. Tons of effort has been put in to protect and conserve nature in many States. Alaska has more than 100 national parks with plenty of ecolodges, which act as a launching pad for ecotours across the wilderness. Other States popular for their eco tourism include Hawaii, Oregon and California.
Iceland has become a very popular country to visit due to its natural beauty and location as a stopover point between North America and Europe. Some of the wonders that await tourists include natural hot springs and epic national parks. Most of the tourism is set up to directly benefit the local economy in a way that does not impact local culture or damage the environment.
Sweden is becoming a global leader in eco-tourism with a lot of effort by local groups and the government to support local economies and preserve its pristine nature. The majority of Sweden’s eco-tourism industry focuses on the outdoors and being in nature. Sweden set up an eco-label called Natures Best to signify that companies adhere to eco-tourism standards. This ensures tourists that are supporting local companies that put in the effort to preserve nature.
Vietnam is a highly underrated country for eco-tourism and tourism in general. The geography of the country is unique but truly amazing at the same time. For tourists seeking to minimize the impact they have on the country they visit, Vietnam is a great place to seek adventure. Vietnam has some of the most extensive cave networks in the world, including the world’s largest cave (by volume), Son Doong, located near Phong Nha. The caves are preserved and great efforts are put toward maintaining their natural beauty by limiting crowds. The caves are only one example amongst an extensive list of Eco-Tourism options in Vietnam.
The Philippines is another country with thriving natural environments that are a big attraction to tourists from around the world. Considering this nation is made up of over 7,000 islands, it is no wonder a majority of tourism is aquatic-based. Climate change and waste from large resorts often threaten these ecosystems so it is important to implement conservation efforts, especially in a country so dependent on tourism. While most of the popular tourist sites in The Philippines do not practice conservation there are some places it is important to support. Masungi Georeserve and Tubbataha Reefs Park are two examples of eco tourism which should be supported to ensure the industry grows in the Philippines.
Chile offers some wonderful options for environmentally conscious travellers. If Chile is on the bucket list be sure to check out EcoCamp Patagonia. This is a truly unique experience in the Chilean Patagonia region. Consisting of sustainable dome hotels, not only will visitors wake up to breathtaking views but can choose from a number of excursions. This is a great way to see the region while limiting one’s footprint on the region.
As of 2022, India is now the most populated country on earth. With a large population, the environment is often stretched to the limit. India is the 7th largest country by landmass however so maintaining these environments takes some effort. By supporting eco tourism in India, more money can be put towards nature conservation and helping local communities, many of whom live in poverty.
Kenya is one of the leaders in sustainable travel and eco-tourism in Africa. It offers a variety of safaris as well as conservation areas aimed at maintaining wildlife and national parks for generations to come. Poaching remains an issue that threatens many animals including elephants and rhinos, hunted for their tusks.
For those looking for a vacation, there are many eco-lodges to choose from, especially on Airbnb. El Karama Lodge is a great option for those looking to experience the natural wonders of Kenya. This lodge is located in a private conservation area and offers guided (and armed) walking tours through the wilderness.
Portugal is a very popular tourist destination, and not one often associated with eco-tourism. The high levels of tourism have had some negative consequences for local communities and the environment over the years. A push for more eco-tourism in the region aimed at conservation and supporting local economies is growing the industry.
Portugal offers numerous eco-lodges, which are great for exploring the countryside some more. Many of the historic sites in Portugal have local guides with extensive knowledge of the past and present.
We don’t often think of eco-tourism when we think of travelling to Spain. Its lively cities, including Barcelona and Madrid, are both major draws for tourists. However, in recent years the eco-tourism industry has started to grow.
Spain has several national parks, including Sierra Nevada and Picos de Europa, which offer incredible natural diversity and are easily walkable. The Camino Trail is a 30-day hike through Spain and this is a great way to see the country and support the local communities which offer accommodations along the way.
Malaysia has a lot to offer the Ecotourism sector. It is a stunning country full of breathtaking wilderness. Malaysia is a unique country and has a unique topography. This means eco-tourism can take many forms. There are dense jungles, highlands and marine ecosystems that all need to be protected.
The Cameron highlands are a tea-growing region in Malaysia that is popular with tourists. This area offers tours of tea plantations, which employ the local community and nature hikes around the countryside. The island of Borneo has Orangutan sanctuaries, as deforestation has threatened their habitats.
Indonesia has a thriving tourism industry and eco-tourism is growing every year. The main driver of this is the government and local organizations aiming to do more for conservation in the country. In order to sustain tourism for the foreseeable future, natural attractions have to be preserved.
Indonesia is a highly volcanic country, and tours of the volcanos are very popular here. One of the most well-known tourist attractions in Indonesia is going to see the Komodo Dragons. These large reptiles are indigenous to the region and are the largest lizards on earth. Great effort has been made to conserve the habitat so they attract tourists while thriving for years to come.
Eco-tourism is very common in South Africa and has helped to preserve the wilderness of the nation of nearly 60 million people. South Africa has many tourist attractions, many of which include safaris to see the wildlife. As one of the wealthiest nations in Africa, South Africa has been a leader in implementing sustainable tourism and conservation efforts.
While eco-tourism is strong in the wildlife department it has yet to take a foothold in a way that truly benefits the local communities as it has in many other countries. Hopefully this changes in years to come.
Botswana is a very unique country, it is landlocked in the middle of Southern Africa yet has diverse habitats for wildlife. While the country is relatively poor, eco-tourism is a source of income for local communities, and hopefully, this continues to grow as more tourists discover what the country has to offer.
The Okavango Delta is the primary attraction for Tourists. Every year the delta floods, attracting wildlife from elephants to lions and hippos. There are eco encampments all through the region designed to limit the impact on habitats while offering quality accommodations.
Finland is ranked the happiest country in the world and this is for many reasons. A major component of this is the stunning nature, which Finland goes to great lengths to protect. Finland isn’t often thought of as an eco-tourism destination but it does have a lot of offer. Tourism in Finland is focused on highlighting Finnish heritage and also supporting local communities. Finland is a global leader in environmental policies and sustainable development. Tourists can engage in a variety of activities in Finland. Many go to see the Northern lights. Additionally, Finland has a strong culture of Wellness, with Sauna being a part of everyday life. Be sure to stop by one of the locally run spas for a relaxing break.
Cambodia is an excellent destination for eco-tourism. It has a long history and many historic sites that attract tourists from all over the world, the most well-known being Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. There is stunning nature and wildlife all over the country. Eco-tourism is important to help fund the conservation of many of these areas. Some popular experiences are the floating villages, cycling tours and boat tours. A homestay is a great way to support a local family and see the way of life in the towns and villages.
Tanzania is well known for offering some of the best safari experiences in the world. The Serengeti is a must-do experience when considering eco-tourism destinations. Every year the Serengeti is home to the largest migration of wildebeest on the planet, as millions seek grazing pastures on the savannahs. The government of Tanzania, with the help of international conservation groups, has invested heavily in conservation in the region. This means limiting the number of visitors, even though it can seem crowded at times. If you are considering a trip to Tanzania it would be good to include Zanzibar Island on the itinerary.
Jordan has many options available for those seeking eco-tourism. As pressure on the environment grows, so does the need for eco-tourism, as the government pushes to conserve the environment. There are a number of nature reserves in Jordan including the Dana Biosphere Reserve and the Wadi Rum. Perhaps the most famous natural site in Jordan is the Dead Sea, where guests can float due to its high salt content.
Brazil is home to the Amazon Rainforest, which is experiencing rapid deforestation. Eco-tourism is very important to this region as it helps support local communities that have an interest in sustaining the rainforest. The Amazon is not the only region in Brazil that offers excellent Eco-tourism options, there are many other regions as well. Most come to Brazil for the city’s culture or nature. Remember to always hire local guides and select local companies to support, this will benefit the local community and help sustain this industry into the future.
Slow travel is catching on these days. This is the concept of taking a slower approach and trying to be present in the place that you are visiting. This will give you more time to observe the culture and learn from the locals about the place you are visiting.
Having your own water bottle is important for sustainable travel. This helps reduce the pollution in the area. Many places do not have the same waste disposal systems as the west does, so it’s easy for water bottles to end up as pollution.
Local guides will know a lot about the area you are visiting. Hiring local guides will make the trip feel more authentic while also being more accurate. This is a great way to support local economies. By supporting local economies, tourism becomes more sustainable in the future.
While every destination has its main draws, some of the best experiences come from the lesser-known sites in a destination. Try to blaze your own trail when travelling sustainably. Do this by not having concrete plans but letting the trip come to you. Word of mouth goes a long way so be sure to ask fellow travellers about their experiences.
Try using alternate modes of transportation. Cars create a lot of pollution and congestion. There are many alternatives to cars including bicycles, buses or trains.
Conservation areas are set up to sustain the wildlife of a region. Poaching and the destruction of habitats are endangering many species around the world. Conservation areas need visitors to come regularly to help generate enough income to keep them running. Conservation sites are expensive and without the support of tourists, they will not last. This is a great way to enjoy your travels, experience local wildlife and do something good with your time and money.
There are many things to consider when selecting an eco-tourism destination for your next vacation. With the industry booming in recent years it could be challenging to pick the right destination for you.
Eco-Tourism is a great way to learn new things while travelling. There is a lot a tourist can learn from eco-tourism. This could be spending time with locals or learning about the efforts that are put in place to conserve the environment.
experiencing local culture can be one of the most rewarding experiences when it comes to travel. Learning experiences can include learning about the history of the people from the region, visiting cultural centers to understand the way of life or simply spending time in a local town or village.
Local cuisines around the world can be an experience all to itself. While you might not get the endless buffet you would at a resort, you can see what the locals eat, which is often delicious. Local cuisines could also be more adventurous. This is a good way to discover new foods that you can share with your friends and family back home.
Eco-tourism is highly nature-based, with conservation efforts designed to sustain local wildlife and forests. An eco-tourism destination could be just what is needed for someone looking for a nice vacation and to get out of the city. In Costa Rica for example, there are plenty of accommodations available in the forest that allow you to go on nature hikes or hang out in local hot springs.
Not only will you get to have an amazing vacation but you will return home feeling like you did some good in the world. Staying at a corporate resort can be relaxing but we are often shielded from the world outside the walls. Eco-tourism breaks down those walls exposing us directly to the environment and getting a first-hand look.
Eco-tourism is overwhelmingly positive but it is important to be aware of the possible drawbacks as well. Understanding some of the less positive aspects can help shape how you approach eco-tourism while also building awareness with other potential travellers.
Eco-tourism will bring people in close contact with nature. This includes both wildlife and nature. While efforts are made to protect the environment, whenever people are in close contact with wildlife there is no doubt it will impact them. Some people may feed the animals regardless of efforts being made to stop that from happening. Additionally, there are always a few bad apples, and not all tourists can be controlled. Some people will damage or even pollute nature as they have no regard or respect for themselves or others. This is almost unavoidable and is a drawback of any form of tourism
while locals are open and welcoming to tourists, there is no doubt that it does have some impact on the local population when they come in contact with tourists. Tourists often come bearing gifts but bring all their electronics, symbols of success back home. Eco-tourism is designed to be sustainable, so populations must be present to be able to keep it going.
many areas of the world will rely far too heavily on the tourism industry, and when this happens it can have some negatives. For example, if tourism offers better opportunities than farming, some farmers may opt to use their land for tourism, which can result in less local production to feed populations. If anything were to happen to the tourism industry the local economy could be severely impacted, almost to the point of no return.