The hope of being able to travel again is becoming more of a reality as the pandemic subsides. With the resumption of nonessential travel being highly anticipated but the impacts of climate change gaining increasing prevalence, ecotourism is an important option to consider. Learn more about how to be environmentally aware during your next vacation.
Despite major socioeconomic setbacks brought on by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there have been positive outcomes for the global environment. Studies have shown that reduced levels of transportation and social exchange resulted in overall improved air quality, reduced water and noise pollution, and significantly alleviated pressure on global tourism destinations. Such beneficial changes even carry potential for restoring entire ecosystems.
However, these advances will only be fleeting if society does not take the environment into consideration post-pandemic. While travel rates are anticipated to boom in the coming years, it is vital to practice ecotourism, to maintain and continue to work towards a healthier environment. Read on to deepen your understanding of ecotourism, and how you can make an impact on your next trip.
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism refers to responsible travelling to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustain the wellbeing of local people, and involve interpretation and education. By practicing ecotourism, people make an impact on conservation and protecting communities through sustainable travel practices.
In terms of conservation, ecotourism gives an opportunity for companies and people to rethink how they interact with the world. It provides lasting, effective, and economic incentives for them to conserve natural bio-cultural diversity, and cherish our planet’s origin. Not only is conserving the environment a goal for ecotourism, but also protecting the local communities of travel destinations.
Ecotourism allows countries to develop sustainably in terms of employment rates and combating poverty. It works as an effective vehicle to raise work opportunities and empower local communities in less economically developed countries around the world. This is more applicable in the hospitality sector, for example when hotels opt to furnish their facilities with locally produced materials and furniture. By doing so, not only can they save on operational costs, but also reduce the negative impacts of importing goods from non-local sources.
All efforts of ecotourism ultimately strive to maintain the personal experiences of consumers while spreading environmental awareness. When the right changes are implemented, ecotourism promotes a deeper understanding and appreciation towards nature, communities, and local culture.
Ecotourism in Practice
As more people start advocating and actively adopting eco-friendly choices into their lifestyle, sustainability has become a buzzword. With expansive media coverage and ongoing discussions, sustainability has become an important marketing element for many companies. As businesses recognise consumers’ growing eco-consciousness, they market and design their products to be environmentally considerate. Within the tourism industry, key players such as hotels, airlines, or travel agencies are already re-designing their products and services to prioritise delivering sustainable experiences.
Airlines leave a significant carbon footprint, however, many leading airlines globally are taking steps to do their part to further exacerbate the environment. For instance, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has been working with a Toshiba subsidiary to start reusing carbon dioxide for jet fuel. Australia’s Qantas Airways also publicly confirmed to produce net zero carbon emissions with their flights.
Another way businesses utilise sustainability as a marketing scheme is through offering ecotourism experiences to guests. Such experiences consist of focusing on local communities by having tourists directly engage and make an impact on the community. Taking Bali as an example, there are marine conservation programs where people help to restore coral reefs or clean out trash from beaches. Other schemes include giving back to the local society through food redistribution, or making tools for the community’s use. Pre-pandemic tourism packages also included such activities, but with more hotels and agencies incorporating them into their product lines, ecotourism is anticipated to undergo growth in coming years.
However, with this sudden attention towards sustainability comes misuse by some companies. Greenwashing refers to businesses misleading consumers with pro-environmental claims to divert attention from a company’s operations that negatively impact the environment. To avoid supporting such habits, it is important to conduct prior research, ensuring the business’ commitment to sustainability is authentic.
The Future of Ecotourism
A Covid-free world is definitely something we are all looking forward to, however, pent-up travel demand and the tourism industry’s long-term suffering may reignite incautious pre-pandemic travel and consumption habits. Countries that have experienced longer periods of lockdown may be the most affected by this change.
However, with the tourism and hospitality industry being more aware of its benefits, the momentum for ecotourism is maintainable. As the pandemic subsides, it is crucial for key players to practice ecotourism for a favourable change for the environment.