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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ecotourism Blog!

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Posada Amazonas One of the three values of ecotourism, in addition to its inherent social and environmental benefits, is the economic sustainability provided to local communities through the following tenants:

  • Local ownership,
  • Observing and maintaining traditional practices of developing goods and food,
  • Offering employment opportunities

This infographic was designed to convey the economic benefits of ecotourism, define the terminology used in the travel industry, and describe the differences in how local communities specifically benefit from ecotourism versus traditional (mass) tourism. 

1 night RaftWith ecotourism estimated to be the fastest-growing sector of the global tourism market (UNWTO), it is imperative that those of us seeking to reduce our environmental impact while traveling find ways to easily distinguish between authentic sustainability and greenwashing.  

While we don't want to simply latch on to the green travel trend, we must be able to recognize travel organizations that are pushing beyond universally acceptable standards of reduce, reuse, and recycle

One may retort that any steps taken by tourism companies to reduce their impact is a step in the right direction, but the curse of traditional tourism is that the positive feedback loop (which we create through social media) also enables massive increases tourism development and access.  

Seaside Village in CreteWhat are the first thoughts or images that come to mind when you think of Greece?  Is it its beautiful clear waters and beaches?  Strikingly blue skies?  Its whitewashed buildings?  Music and dance?  Its history?  Contributions to philosophy and our political process?  Its delicious and healthy food? 

Perhaps, is it all of these combined images that make Greece one of the most iconic “bucket list” travel destinations in the world.  

As Greenloons’ Founder, I’ve been fortunate to travel to many countries (and even live in a few) around the world and, in my humble opinion, there is no comparison within the six continents I’ve visited, to Greece.  

Elephants of Southern AfricaGood news: there are too many elephants!

Bad news: there are too many elephants!

With so many environmental groups fighting to prevent poaching of these impressive beasts for their ivory tusks, it is ironic that there is over-population in the parks I recently visited in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia with Overseas Adventure Travel.

An estimated 120,000 elephants roam the vast, unfenced preserves under the protection of armed, patrolling rangers.

Logans Pass Continental Divide Glacier National ParkThis past July, my husband and I biked through one of our nation’s most iconic parks, Glacier National Park. Just one year earlier, the park was ravaged by fire caused by persistent drought in the region. 

Yet, this summer, signs of recovery – in the form of lots of sightings of bears, cougars, bald eagles and wildflowers – were already showing Mother Nature’s determination.

Glacier National Park, which was formed prior to the establishment of our National Park Service in 1916, is filled with many plant and mammal species as well as prairie, forest, alpine and, of course, glacial features.  

Bulgaria Girl near Belasitsa Nature ParkMy first impression upon crossing the border from Macedonia to Bulgaria was of the sweetness of both the air (its smell of hyacinths) and people of Bulgaria. 

Over the days, almost like a slowly blooming flower, I then began to discover its stunning vistas, burgeoning wine industry (not to mention their fantastic walnut liquor), variety of delicious food, fascinating history, adventure options, and an inherent joie-de-vivre of people who will sing and dance without much persuasion.

To me, Bulgaria is the next “hot” destination for family travelers because it’s safe, family-friendly, offers a very good standard of service, and has many options for hikers and foodies to history buffs and beach bums.

Green River Whitewater RaftingLast month, I, along with my 11 year old son and some other family members, embarked on a multi-day whitewater rafting and camping adventure along the Green River that connects Colorado and Utah.  

We considered ourselves to be relatively experienced for this trip given that I had participated in two days of whitewater rafting on the Pacure River in Costa Rica (Class III-IV) and rafted in the state of Veracruz in Mexico (Class III), my son had enrolled in a couple of day rafting trips around the Washington, DC area (Class II), and another family member obtained her whitewater rafting certification, as a young adult.  

Rock Climbing Outside SkopjeWhen I was four years old, my family moved from Athens, Greece to Lausanne, Switzerland so that my father could pursue a career opportunity.  

Thinking that it would be a fun adventure, my parents decided to drive to Switzerland through Yugoslavia.

All I remember from that mid 1970s road trip was seeing lots of mountains. However, last month, I had another opportunity to explore more closely Macedonia (also known as the Republic of Macedonia or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - FYROM) and what was most surprising to me was how many options there are for adventure travelers.

Women on Wheels in IndiaLast fall, G Adventures announced the 50-in-5 campaign as part of the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  I had an opportunity to ask Kim McCabe of G Adventures, a few questions about the goals of this campaign and how it related to sustainable tourism as well as benefiting local communities socially, economically and environmentally.

What is your ultimate goal with the 50-in-5 campaign, as it relates to traveler awareness of sustainable community experiences?

G Adventures’ 50-in-5 Campaign will raise CAD $5 million (USD $3.9 million) to integrate 50 new social enterprise projects into the G Adventures portfolio within 5 years.

Ambassador for the EnvironmentA few months ago, for our Spring Break, our family traveled to the Hawaiian island of Maui.  We chose Maui for a few reasons including the chance to experience Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, which is affiliated with three of Ritz-Carlton's Resorts (Maui, Grand Cayman, and Puerto Rico), and to better understand how the programs were affecting local communities, ocean conservation efforts, and of course children's understanding (and interest) in environmental issues.

Although we signed up for the Whale Watch excursion as a family, it was cancelled due to rough seas. However, our son did have the chance to participate in the Survivor program.

Small Farmers CowThere are 500 million small farmers across the world producing around 70% of the global food supply. They do this despite the numerous threats and challenges that they face on a daily basis. This is no small feat.  So, in order to support production, we are working with these small farmers to develop their own innovative low-cost solutions.

We are Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF) and we are a charity with difference. We are led by small farmers and owned by 38 producer organisations and their 280,000 members across Latin America and Africa.

Hopineo West Africa TourLast year, I had the opportunity to meet game changer Florie Thielin of the Hopineo initiative, which endeavors to use the principles of the sharing economy to promote sustainable tourism.  In exchange for sharing best practices and providing specific recommendations for how responsible hotels and tourism boards can enhance their efforts, Hopineo provides access to experienced sustainability and marketing experts who only ask that their room and board accommodations be waived.

The founders of Hopineo, Justine and Mahery, have just embarked on a tour of West Africa.  While they were in Sine Saloum, Senegal, I had a chance to ask them some questions about their new project, which is also running a crowdfunding campaign through the end of February.

PetraMy journey to Jordan began in 2005.  Having never travelled to the Middle East, the first time I looked at a map of where Jordan was, I was a little unsure what to expect. However, within moments of arriving at Queen Alia Airport, I felt welcome and happy to be there. Ten years later and this feeling of happiness, security and hope has not faded.

Despite the challenges we, as a country, are facing with our neighbours, Jordan has, is, and I hope always, will be a land of safety, legendary hospitality, and breathtaking beauty. With the unrest in the region, tourism has unsurprisingly dropped significantly and in towns like Petra that rely on tourism for their livelihood, times are tough.

Monte Rufeno Olive PickingAs we walked along the short trail back from the olive grove, I began to smell fresh mint and other aromatic herbs underfoot, wildly growing on the side of the farmhouse, and instantly felt transported to a simpler time when families had to grow their own food and raise their own livestock to survive.

Although paling in comparison to those more likely difficult times, I still was satisfied with having taken part in the harvesting of an olive tree’s lovely green and purple colored olives ready for the first press. We collected nearly 90 lbs. of olives that morning and, once again, found ourselves at a large family-style Italian table ready for a feast.

For anyone who has traveled throughout the Mediterranean, the scene may be a familiar one. But, once you account for the details, you realize it is anything but common.

Horse BlogWhile I know my son was having a wonderful time at his summer camp in New Hampshire, I was still so glad to be able to have this extended road trip with my daughter.

During part one of this two-part series, I talked about our adventures from Georgia up to New Hampshire. Now, at the half way point of the trip, appropriately spent riding a zip line over the Pemigewassett River and then taking a gondola up the White Mountains to explore some granite caves, we now had to continue back home.

After my son's visitation day, my daughter and I explored D Acres a bit more. We took a dip in the swimming hole, rode our bikes to some surrounding farms to visit some goats and a friendly horse, and hung out in the open-air "Summer Kitchen".

AirBnB Inspired Road TripAs my son was packing up for another season at his summer camp in New Hampshire, I realized I had to do something to make these weeks special for my daughter too. So what better than a grand road trip!

My daughter and I love animals and have been especially interested in raising chickens after our town passed legislation allowing them to be kept locally. My daughter even began lobbying school administrators to create a kind of 4-H club for some students to raise a few hatched chicks.

So, creating a trip to visit chickens along our route seemed like a natural theme for our adventure!

Madagascar Tourism Helping CommunitiesAcross Africa, the transformational abilities of tourism have proven invaluable in helping to repair the relationship between people and planet. Sustainable certification standards, like those instituted by South Africa's Fair Trade Tourism, have ushered in new awareness for tourism that benefits communities socially, economically and environmentally.

This awareness has translated into action on the island of Madagascar. A country of startling contrasts, its incredible natural beauty and unique ecosystems are offset by a rapidly expanding and largely impoverished population, threatening species found nowhere else on earth.

Sustainable Tourism: Water Usage in US HotelsI was born with the travel bug. As often as I could, I was off visiting and re-visiting places near and far, soaking in sea air, language, and culture. But as my eco-conscience grew, I realized that my growing collection of seashells and jet-fuelled flights might be satisfying my wanderlust at the expense of the environment. Because my wanderlust was simply impossible to ignore, I turned my attention to sustainable tourism.

Eco/Geo/Green/Sustainable Tourism
No matter the name, the intent is the same: travel with the lightest environmental and socio-cultural footprint possible to maintain or improve conditions in all communities around the world and ensure their health for years to come. A lofty goal, but with a change in perspective and a little bit of effort, travel can be not only guilt-free, but rewarding in unexpected ways.

World Summit on Sustainable TourismI have been a proud member of Sustainable Tourism Charter's ST+20 Scientific Committee for more than two years during which I have tried to advance the organization's goals for preserving common heritage, supporting tourism biodiversity, decreasing tourism's effect on climate change, wealth redistribution, and enhancing partnerships and innovation - the last of which specifically related to the development of a Return on Investment (ROI) Model for Sustainable Tourism.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in this growing and important field of tourism, later this year, from November 26-27, a seminal event will take place in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) to mark the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism.

We can all play a part in improving our environment, whether we become more aware of recycling to educating our children about the importance of being environmentally conscious. Governments and city councils too have a responsibility and in this infographic, we can see that some cities have been more serious about energy efficiency than others.

For example, in Copenhagen, you can see for yourself just how much they have embraced environmental responsibility whereby over one-third of residents use their bicyles regularly.  In addition, there are manysafe cycle paths that allow you to see the city plus get some fresh air.  More closer to home, consider a visit to San Francisco where they encourage the use of electric cars, thereby helping to reduce smog.  

Check out these other green city destination options for some additional inspiration.

Researcher at Bidoup Field School VietnamLooking for a unique way to 'pay it forward' and add to your resume with your sustainable travels? Spearheading an innovative program that applies responsible tourism practices with practical scientific research, the Bidoup Field School, will be holding a special 2 week program in January for budding researchers who want to combine their sustainable travels with the opportunity to contribute and advance tropical forest research.  

Located within the Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park in Vietnam, a newly named UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, researchers will first spend 9 days touring Vietnam with Dr. Nhu Hoa Le, bi-lingual guide and leading expert on sustainable tourism in Vietnam followed by a week of environmental research.  

Car Free Island of Hydra GreeceOne of the easiest ways to support sustainable travel is to select a car-free island for your next family vacation.

Car-free islands, generally, have a healthier population due to less air pollution and a less sedentary population, improved conditions for culture and leisure facilities, more space set aside for gardens and parks, more energy-efficient and water-efficient buildings (due to necessity), higher real estate values, and lower rates of crime, among other benefits.

To provide some additional eco-inspiration, while I've written about our travel experiences in Hydra, Greece and more recently Mackinac Island, Michigan, here is a list of other U.S States and countries who have designated entire islands as car-free.

Volunteer Africa 32 Fair Trade Certified Wild Coast Schools Program Does this sound familiar?  You are a person with sought-after technical, teaching, and/or artistic skills that would love to combine your passion for travel with your pay-it-forward attitude.  You have the drive, but are unsure about whether that volunteer program that looks good to you (and your family) will actually help the community. How do you know that it will be a rewarding experience socially and environmentally?

Eco-certification goes a long way toward providing that necessary transparency and accountability, but until recently, there weren't any volunteer programs that were certified.  Enter Volunteer Africa 32 South

Approach to Ferry Port on Car Free Mackinac IslandThe more I travel, the more I appreciate, downright relish, the unhurried feeling of a pedestrian zone, where locals and visitors alike can only traverse by foot or bicycle (or maybe by an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage).

One can usually find a pedestrian zone within an historic center, such as we did in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Krakow (Poland) or within a national park, such as Maria Island in Tasmania (Australia).

However, lately, I've started to gravitate toward car-free islands where it is downright acceptable to slow down, meander through roadways and scenic areas, think, and even strike up a conversation with a passer-by or two.

Florie HopTrip Latin AmericaA few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Florie Thielin at the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference in Quito and learning more about the Hopineo initiative.

It's a deliciously simple, but impactful idea! In exchange for sharing best practices and providing specific recommendations for how a responsible hotel can enhance their marketing efforts, Hopineo provides access to experienced sustainability, marketing and/or photo/videography professionals, among other skills, who only ask that their room and board accommodations be waived.

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