Everything you always wanted to know about Ecotourism

Text: Nicole Aguerre and Irene Fernandez

Images: Sandra Bartocha & Andres Geidemark / Wild Wonders of Europe 

Since all travel has come to a halt due to the outbreak of Covid-19, The European Safari Company wants to use this time to spread awareness about ecotourism and other forms of sustainable travel. In a series of blogs we will discover how can you change the world through travelling, why it is so important to support ethical and sustainable initiatives and, where and how you can find the initiatives that matter.

In this first blog we are delving into ECOTOURISM. A form of tourism that is in everybody's mouths but that fuels so many debates about what it is and what is not. In this article we are answering the most common questions and misconceptions about it. Get ready to become a eco-expert!

Is ecotourism the same as nature-based tourism?

Although eco-tourism and nature-based tourism are often used interchangeably, technically they are not the same thing. Nature-based tourism includes forms of tourism that are directly related to activities in and around nature, whereas ecotourism relates more to the sustainable aspects of travelling.

The most important aspect is that it is about making different choices. Choices that minimize our footprint on the environment and have a positive impact on nature and local people.

When was this kind of tourism “invented”?

You may  think  that ecotourism is an invention of the last ten years, developed by the tourism industry, but in fact, already in the 70s people were travelling mindfully and diminishing their negative impacts. 

In the 90s, ecotourism started to be defined, studied and marketed, and it hasn't stopped growing ever since.

The first definition of ecotourism was given by Ceballos-Lascurain when he coined the term ecotourism defining it as: 

"Tourism that involves traveling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects (both past and present) found in these areas.” 

Since then, many different definitions have been given, in an attempt to define the elements or actions of this tourism that make it what it is. 

What’s so good about ecotourism?

By choosing ecotourism, travellers learn about ecosystems, cultures and traditions of the destination, without missing the excitement, adventure and relaxation of a vacation. Ecotourism allows countries and communities to build their economies without harming the environment. This means that local wildlife can thrive and visitors can enjoy untouched destinations. Travellers can increase awareness about the importance of ecotourism. Through visiting areas of stunning natural beauty, seeing animals in their natural habitat and meeting members of local communities, travellers learn about the importance of conserving resources and avoiding waste. 

Why is ecotourism the future of tourism?

In recent years, tourists have become more aware and concerned about leaving a positive impact on the destinations they visit. Aside from this, travellers are searching for new ways of experiencing nature-based and wildlife activities. The demand for ecotourism has increased, with travellers showing more interest in sustainable travel.

In a 2018 Booking.com survey, 87% of global travelers said they wanted to travel sustainably. Being able to help local communities, the environment and ecosystems while enjoying a well-deserved vacation is the perfect combination.

How do I choose sustainable travel?

Sadly, abuse of the ‘ecotourism’ label does exist. But don’t worry, as an ecotourist you can judge the validity of a destination by taking some factors into consideration. The conservation of local cultural and biological diversity is a sign of good ecotourism. Another good sign is the promotion of the sustainable use of resources and local economies. When choosing your accommodation, you can see if it’s environmentally friendly by checking on their website their policies on waste managing, recycling, renewable energy use and energy efficiency.

A little tip: if your next holiday checks all the boxes below, then you will be practicing ecotourism!

  • Nat­ure-based: you will enjoy en learn about nature in a respectful way
  • Benefits and involves locals: your "tourism dollars" will go to the locals of the areas you are visiting
  • Education-interpretation: you will learn first hand from locals and experts about your surroundings. Ecotourism is learning while having a great time. 
  • Helps conservation and raises awareness: the initiatives you will suport with your trip are changing the world with your help. 
  • Small scale: ecotourism understand about area capacity limits, which for you will translate into a personal, not-massified experience.
  • Enjoyable: of course the top priority of all ecotourism initiatives is that you have an amazing, fun, memorable holiday. 

We're very proud to offer ecotourism options in rewilding areas with our local partners, so you can rest assured that we tick all the boxes above.

You can read more about this in our 'About Us' section.

So, when it comes to ecotourism, how would you define it?

What do you do to make your holidays more sustainable?

Let us know on our social media pages.