What is ecotourism? According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), it is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
Ecotourism is a subset of sustainable tourism. As with any sustainability strategy, regardless of industry, the three foundational pillars are:
These pillars, aka the triple bottom line, are critical to the success and legitimacy of any sustainable initiative. Sustainable tourism has a unique responsibility to improve the lives of the local community and visitors, stretching their boundaries through education and experiences.
This type of eco-friendly tourism offers travelers a rare chance to experience nature in remote areas. The first time I stayed at an ecoresort was in South Africa. Space was limited. It was a very intimate experience. I’ll never forget hearing the lions roar at night, eating local food, and learning about South African culture over a warm campfire. Ecotourism does not need to be an extreme example of traveling out of your native land. To summarize, there must be an aspect of the environment, culture, and local financial benefit to qualify as ecotourism.
Rapid growth of tourism
Take a guess on what market of tourism is the fastest growing? Yup, you guessed it. Ecotourism is the fastest growing market in tourism, important to keep in mind, considering how influential the tourism industry is. Per the World Travel & Tourism Council’s latest research, tourism accounted for 10.2% of the world’s GDP (US$7.6 trillion) in 2016 with no signs of slowing. For the past six years, the travel and tourism industry has outpaced the global economy.
Who should go on an ecotourism trip?
You! No, but really, you should. Ecotourism can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, including millennials and baby boomers. Previously, ecotourism was thought to be better left to the wealthy and primarily older demographic. With the evolution of travel and explosion of digital media, eco tours are now easier to book than ever. Check out our list of trips here or contact us if interested in a one of a kind, custom trip.
Have you already stayed at an ecolodge or used a reputable ecotourism company that you would recommend them? Shoot Stretch Tourism a note so we can connect. We’re always looking to partner with trustworthy ecolodges and service providers (no greenwashing on our watch!).
What’s next for ecotourism?
As mentioned, tourism continues to grow at an astonishing clip. 2017 was also appointed The International Year of Sustainable Tourism by the United Nations, which we expect will boost visibility for ecotourism. The political climate in the United States will impact tourism, but there should not be a huge interference with international travel overall.
Hopefully you will consider joining Stretch Tourism on a eco tour, but if you’re not quite ready, subscribe to our FREE newsletter instead. Once subscribed, you can read more about sustainable tourism and perhaps receive some deals along the way.
As always, travel light, travel right.