With summer fast approaching, many people are planning their vacation getaways. To reel in tourists, some countries have turned towards an interesting form of revenue generation, ecotourism, the latest fad in tourism marketing. In fact, “The United Nations World Tourism Organization has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to highlight ecotourism.” Ecotourism can be defined as “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.” The International Ecotourism Society defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education.”
However you define ecotourism, there is often both positive and negative outcomes of ecotourism in practice, creating complications. Ecotourism in the sole interest of capital gain runs the risk of being greenwashing. Greenwashing can be defined as “the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology, or company practice.” The issue with greenwashing is that tourism programs and packages can market themselves as ecotourism to provide a sense of sustainable vacationing when they are in fact causing greater environmental damage.
Misleading marketing may not be the only form of negative ecotourism. By building human infrastructure, we run the risk of increasing noise and sound pollution that can harm local wildlife. Construction not only costs a pretty penny but also increases our carbon footprint.
But there are instances where ecotourism tends to be a conservation leader. The act of identifying lands to conserve functions well for both preserving a tourist economy and preserving habitats and wildlife. A prime example would be Yellowstone National Park that is a marriage of wilderness and recreation where human involvement leads to new ecosystem balance. In 1995, fourteen wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and the impact of this action has been immensely positive. Watch the video below to learn how wolves brought new life to the park.
In the last couple of months, many countries have revealed they are amping up their ecotourism plans for the year. The trend seems to follow along with the idea that eco-tourism equals revenue, which is expected. However, according to Quartz Media reporting on a study published in Global Ecology and Conservation, “countries that have been the best at conservation tend to be the ones with the most to gain from it economically.” The biggest tourist draw is considered to be megafauna, meaning ‘big animal.”
The graphic below from Science Direct depicts components of the Megafauna Conservation Index in relation to the relative importance of certain factors. Each continent varies on what they deem to be most important in conservation.
Here’s a list of some countries with accompanying sources of new plans in ecotourism:
Written by Iman Lynn Mamdouh