Ecotourism refers to travel that is consciously planned to support ecosystems and local cultures. The
International Ecotourism Society (TIES) states that ecotourism is "responsible travel to natural areas that
conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people". This intent distinguishes it from most
tourism because it emphasizes small scale, non-intrusive values and discourages the construction of hotels,
resorts and highways which would be destructive to the wildlife, land and local cultures in the long run. Simply
being out in nature or in a remote area of the world does not, by itself, constitute environmentalism.
Ecotourism began as a concept in the 1970s and during its first two decades most participants were citizens of Western Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States. This, however, is rapidly changing and an increasing number of participants are from Asia, South America and Africa as these regions gain prosperity.
The first ecotourism destinations were in Africa and involved photographic expeditions. Observation and
experience, not luxury or the purchase of trinkets, were promoted. Since the nineties, ecotourism has become a
thriving business and governments have an increasing awareness of its importance to their economies. Belize,
Nepal, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dubai, Canada, Ecuador and Kenya all have booming ecotourism sectors. There are good
companies that go to all of these locations.
However, it is important to be aware of the environmental impact of air travel. It leaves an enormous carbon footprint so consider other, more local, options. Travel by public transportation if possible. Journeying by bicycle, camping or stopping at hostels along the way, is a fun and environmental way to travel. Hostels tend to be more environmentally conscious than hotels or motels and there is a spirit of sharing and community that is inspirational. Friendships are formed in hostels that last a lifetime.
Ecotourism in the United States is on the rise. Lengthy mountain ranges, dramatic coastlines, and an enormous diversity of wildlife species present opportunities for sustainable tourism, education and adventure. The United States has a number of different ecosystems, from tropical to arctic and the fact that it is closer to home is also a draw. Alaska, with its vast animal populations and spectacular terrain is currently the most active state in promoting environmentally conscious tourism.- Larry