Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ECOTOURISM: What can you do as an eco-tourist?

by Ines Koski

Although the world has not geographically gotten any smaller, it may seem so since you can get to even the furthest corner of the globe in under 12 hours. Nowadays, travelling has become a hobby and a popular life style for many people. For example in Finland, travelling abroad increased by 17 % from the year 2011 to year 2012. This 17% is equivalent to an addition of 7,8 million trips in various forms of travelling.  (Tilastokeskus, 18.04.2013) However, travelling, in general, has a lot of problems, for instance social, political and environmental. In this blog I will focus on the environmental aspects. According to traveltips.com (http://traveltips.usatoday.com/positive-negative-effects-tourism-63336.html) tourism, in general, has a significant impact on the environment. The main environmental impacts are littering, traffic emissions, increased and not properly constructed sewage production.

What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves travelling to the world’s most pristine and fragile places, while keeping the ecological footprint to a minimum. The main idea behind ecotourism is not to entertain the tourist, but to educate them on the importance of nature conservation and respect for the environment. Special focus is placed on the social responsibility of travelling and environmental sustainability. Ecotourism is meant to offer tourists special insight into the impact of human actions on the environment, and to enable a greater appreciation of our natural habitats. Ecotourism is a great way for a traveler to help minimize his or her ecological footprint of travelling! The importance of eco-tourism is growing every year since travelling, in general, is increasing significantly every year, causing a need for a more sustainable alternative. 

What can you do as an eco-tourist?

There are a lot of things a responsible tourist can do to minimize his or her ecological footprint when travelling to and in the destination.  First of all, a tourist has a choice whether to use a plane (which is the biggest source of pollution in travelling) or, for instance, a train, albeit this is really not an option if you are travelling overseas and have only a few weeks' time. However, the eco-tourist can also decide which form of public transportation to use when travelling within the country. For example, a traveler should consider whether to use trains, busses, trams etc instead of flying.
Another important thing that an eco-tourist can take into consideration is low-impact visitor behavior, meaning that kind of behavior that does not affect the local people in any cultural way. The appreciation of local cultures and biodiversity, which means adapting to the existing culture “when in Rome, do as the Romans” is extremely important. Taking care of the environment by not littering and not, for example, picking any flowers or sea shells from their natural environment are also key guidelines an eco-tourist should follow. An eco- tourist can also take care of the environment by not purchasing objects, such as corals, whose removal has a negative impact on natural ecosystems. A good eco-souvenir can, for example, be a hand-made piece of jewelry (that doesn’t include any sea shells etc) or other craftsmanship pieces.

Although there are considerable downsides to travelling in remote areas, there are also positive aspects. For instance, when I was travelling in Costa Rica and visiting Rio Celeste Natural Park, 75 % of the profits went towards the conservation of that particular ecosystem. This is a great way of using the income enabled by tourism for the greater good.

Although the increase in travelling raises a lot of social awareness of other cultures and supports internationality and cooperation, it also has serious consequences, especially towards the environment. This is why the concept of eco-travelling needs to be emphasized, since after all, it is the best decision out of all the bad ones!

 Happy eco-travels everybody!
Ecotourism, 2014, The Nature Conservancy, available at :http://www.nature.org/greenliving/what-is-ecotourism.xml
Ecotourism, 2014, Wikipedia.org, available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecotourism
Suomalaisten matkailu ulkomaille, Tilastokeskus, 18.04.2013, http://tilastokeskus.fi/til/smat/2012/smat_2012_2013-04-18_tie_001_fi.html
Effects of tourism, USA today, available at:http://traveltips.usatoday.com/positive-negative-effects-tourism-63336.html

by me! =)

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