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Ecotourism

You have probably heard the terms Eco-Tourism and Sustainability a lot in recent years - especially in the context of tourism. But what do these terms actually stand for? Here is a short explanation for you:

What is Eco-Tourism?

Definition

Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves traveling to tranquil and unpolluted natural areas. According to the definition and principles of ecotourism established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990). Martha Honey, expands on the TIES definition by describing the seven characteristics of ecotourism, which are:

  1. Involves travel to natural destinations.
  2. Minimizes impact and
  3. Builds environmental awareness.
  4. Provides direct financial benefits for conservation.
  5. Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
  6. Respects local culture.
  7. Supports human rights and democratic movements.

Criteria

Ideally, ecotourism should satisfy several criteria, such as:
  • Conservation of biological diversity and cultural diversity through ecosystem protection.
  • Promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity, by providing jobs to local populations.
  • Sharing of socio-economic benefits with local communities and indigenous peoples by having their informed consent and participation in the management of ecotourism enterprises.
  • Tourism to unspoiled natural resources, with minimal impact on the environment being a primary concern.
  • Minimization of tourism's own environmental impact.
  • Affordability and lack of waste in the form of luxury.
  • Local culture, flora and fauna being the main attractions.

For many countries, ecotourism is not simply a marginal activity to finance protection of the environment, but is a major industry of the national economy. For example, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and Antarctica, ecotourism represents a significant portion of the gross domestic product and economic activity.

Greenwashing

The concept of ecotourism is widely misunderstood and in practice is often used as a marketing tool to promote tourism that is related to nature. This is an especially frequent malpractice in the realm of Jungle tourism. Critics claim that these greenwashing practices, carried out in the name of ecotourism, often consist of placing a hotel in a splendid landscape, to the detriment of the ecosystem. According to them, ecotourism must above all sensitize people to the beauty and the fragility of nature. They condemn some operators as greenwashing their operations: using the labels of "green" and "eco-friendly", while behaving in environmentally irresponsible ways.

Classification and accredition

Although academics disagree about who can be classified as an ecotourist and there is little statistical data, some estimate that more than five million ecotourists - the majority of the ecotourist population - come from the United States, with many others from Western Europe, Canada and Australia.

Currently, there are various moves to create national and international ecotourism accreditation programs, although the process is also controversial. National ecotourism certification programs have been put in place in countries such as Costa Rica, Australia, Kenya and Sweden.

What is Sustainable Development?

Definition

Sustainable Development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. The term was used by the Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges facing humanity. As early as the 1970s "sustainability" was employed to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems." Ecologists have pointed to The Limits to Growth, needed and presented the alternative of a "steady state economy"in order to address environmental concerns.

The field of sustainable development can be conceptually broken into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability.

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