Ecotourism 101: How is ecotourism different from other types of tourism?

Ecotourism, which is a type of travel that focuses on the discovery of a wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local goals and reduces damage to the environment, has been mixed with other types of tourism. Following are some distinct clarifications among other tourism terms have been incorrectly applied to ecotourism.

Sustainable Tourism – does not deplete resources and allows for a smaller number of tourists to experience nature so as not to disturb the animal’s normal mating, feeding, or migratory patterns. An example is a rafting trip on a free flowing river. The difference with ecotourism is that there may be no focus on the preservation of the natural habitat or economic benefit to the host destination.

Adventure Tourism – spotlights physical outdoor activities. Examples include snorkeling, diving, or surfing a coastal area. The difference with ecotourism is that while these companies may want to preserve the environment where the activities are taking place, they may not necessarily be operating in a sustainable manner or providing educational opportunities.

Cultural Tourism – centers on the discovery of the heritage of the host destination. An example would be a local artisan showing you how to weave a tapestry and learning from her about the traditional dress. The difference with ecotourism is that there is no focus on nature or wildlife.

Responsible Tourism – attempts to minimize the environmental degradation of the host destination. An example is a wilderness camping trip using Leave No Trace ethics. The difference with ecotourism is that there may be no economic benefit to the host destination.

Nature Tourism – focuses on enjoying wildlife in their natural habitat. Examples include jungle lodgings in the Amazon or cruise ships that view penguins in Antarctica. The difference with ecotourism is that these trips may not have an educational component to them, may not be environmentally sustainable or responsible, and may not economically benefit the host destination.

Green Tourism – applies to any activity or facility that operates in an environmentally friendly way. Examples include a rainforest lodge with composting toilets and solar powered lighting.  The difference with ecotourism is that these lodges may be centrally controlled by a large corporation and therefore not necessarily benefit the host destination nor focus on conservation education or the preservation of wildlife.

When we talk about ecotourism, we’re talking about actions that have a meaningful impact on the community or region to which you’re traveling. Lowering your carbon footprint or reducing the waste you generate while traveling by choosing reusable items like a refillable water bottle, all contribute to lowering your overall impact. But true sustainable travel is about supporting people and infrastructure long after you’ve departed: supporting a region socially, economically and environmentally (SEE).

By seeking ecotourism travel experiences, you will also find unique opportunities to connect more deeply with the people and places you visit, experiencing the culture, people, wildlife and diverse experiences each destination has to offer in a more authentic way.

What does ecotourism mean to you? 

Check out our eco-certified green vacations that feature awesome adventure, culture, nature & wildlife and culinary experiences.

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