Defining environmentally sound and sustainable travel
The world is quickly becoming a smaller place as advances in flight and transportation allow more travelers the opportunities to visit remote areas. The development of the Internet over the last 20 years has provided instant information about exotic and secluded destinations, now available to anyone with the means to get there.
Increased travel can result in additional impact on the environment. In response to the heightened interest in travel and environmental impact, a new consciousness about travel has emerged called eco-tourism.
What is eco-tourism?
The official definition of eco-tourism, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”
How is eco-tourism different than nature tourism?
Visiting a natural location does not automatically define it as an eco-tourism destination. While nature tourism simply means visiting places that involve natural surroundings (for example state parks and forests), eco-tourism involves visiting places that have made a conscious effort to abide by a set of environmental principles.
According to the International Eco-tourism Society, eco-tourism destinations are sites that have made a commitment to minimize the impact of visitors to their locations and provide benefits to both visitors and the communities surrounding the site. These locations provide a positive environmental and financial impact to the people who live nearby.
What is an eco-tourist?
An eco-tourist is a traveler who has a deep regard for the environmental and social impact of the world around him or her. In addition to taking steps to travel in the most eco- conscious way (for instance, taking a bus or driving to a destination versus flying), an eco-tourist is committed to the local residents of the places he or she is visiting. Travelers who are conscious of the communities in which they visit, often take the time to volunteer or give back to the community during their stay.
Examples of eco-tourism
One destination that is succeeding at eco-tourism is the Caiman Ecological Refuge in Pantanal Wetlands of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Four eco-lodges, situated over 132,000 acres of land, allow visitors to stay on one of the largest cattle ranches of its kind. Travelers can canoe the rivers running through the Pantanal and see caiman (a small species of crocodile) in their natural environment. Visitors can also choose to volunteer on the ranch for a first-hand glimpse of life in this Brazilian outback. Learn more by visiting http://en.caiman.com.br/. View other examples of eco-tourism at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/travel/eco-travel/eco-success.html.
World travel offers an opportunity for travelers to experience other cultures. With this opportunity comes a responsibility to leave the planet in sound condition for future generations. Visiting places that make eco-tourism a priority helps reduce the environmental impact of travelers visiting natural and historical destinations, while also protecting those places for years to come.
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