You always have an image in your head whenever you hear “ecotourism”: camping in absolute wilderness, long days of strenuous hiking, cooking meals on a camp stove. However, there is a lot more about ecotourism than enjoying nature on the barest of necessities.
For the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” But ecotourism can be more than just that. Here are some ecotourism mythbusters that should redefine the word.
Ecotourism cannot be done in urban areas – Thankfully, ecotourism can be done in big cities, which good news for urbanites who now make up more than half of the world’s population. Ecotourism is all about visiting new places in a responsible and eco-conscious way, whether such places are in a natural area or not. Urban ecotourism includes locally-owned restaurants that source seasonal ingredients from local growers, or spending time in national, regional, and city parks. Use of public transport, bicycles, and ferries, is also part of urban ecotourism, as well as staying in locally-owned or green accommodations.
Ecotourism is all about camping out – There are so many ways to experience ecotourism, from living in a ger in Mongolia to sleeping in a tree-house over the lavender fields of Central Italy, you can come up with your ideal ecotourism activities and accommodations.
Where you go is important – As an eco-tourist, how to get to your destination and navigate around it is just as important as where you stay for the night. Consider finding creative ways to savor your journey, like avoiding freeways and traversing through scenic towns or taking the train and marvel at the landscape through the window. Want a more exotic experience? Take an elephant safari through India or a camel safari through Egypt. Not only it adds a new layer to your experience, but you also reduce carbon footprint.
Ecotourism is just about nature – Ecotourism is also about getting closer to the culture of your destination. For instance, you can take poetry or landscape painting class at Hellenic International Studies in the Arts, located in Greece’s Paros Island. You could also take organic cooking classes or build using sustainable materials on Australia’s Heron Island. On another note, ecotourism brings an opportunity for tourists to volunteer and provide assistance with a variety of projects such as monitoring local wildlife or restoring coral reefs. Volunteering gets you to know about your destination on a different perspective, establish new friendships, practice speaking new languages, and discover a new field of interest.
Ecotourism caters to tourists – Ecotourism is not just about getting away from the stress of life and staying in an exotic accommodation, but also allowing you to experience your destination through the eyes of locals. There are homestaying programs such as CouchSurfing that connects travelers with families who are willing to host your stay for a few days and even show you around while you are there. The local family can provide you inside advice on the best places to eat, hike, swim, and other sites worth visiting.