Ecotourism may be seen as an oxymoron. In fact, tourism, the largest global service industry (10% of world GDP), is not properly the environment’s best friend, actually causing a lot of damages, including pollution, deforestation, and habitat loss.
For us, Ecotourism primarily means seeking a genuine contact with nature and minimizing the environmental impact of our trips. Sustainability and also ethical issues are the key drivers here. And those principles should inform all the eco traveler’s decisions (transportation, accommodation, etc.).
An eco traveler should also prefer travel destinations where nature gives its best, considering various elements, such as biodiversity, presence of large forests and protected areas, air quality. They’d rather go to Australia, Canada or Finland, than to Haiti, Bangladesh or Somalia, for instance.
While nature is universally recognized as a source of pleasure, regeneration, and well-being, Ecotourism represents the vanguard of the broader nature-based tourism category. It addresses the most discerning and educated travelers and includes passive enjoyment of natural settings as well as outdoor recreation.
Climate change is increasingly been perceived as a major threat to the planet and the environmental cause has made some progress (at least in the Western world). Products and services that protect the environment are preferred by more consumers and also the way to experience natural places is evolving.
Eco travelers have specific and varied interests and needs, so new market niches have emerged, among which Rural Tourism (or Agritourism), Wildlife Tourism, Avitourism (birdwatching), and Garden Tourism. But labels aside, Ecotourism can really be beneficial for the environment and the rural communities?
It certainly can, if it also implies getting to know our habitat, participating in ecological conservation projects and helping to improve the welfare of local people. In the latter case we can appropriately use the term Ethical Tourism.