The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as: "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (1990)
It also notes several principles of ecotourism, namely that ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize impact.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
- Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate.
It is, quite simply, travel during which a tourist is acutely in touch with and respective of the environment they find themselves in. Instead of leaving one’s stamp on the places one goes to and people one meets, one allows the people and place to leave their stamp on you, to impact you. Thus ecotourism becomes a rich and rewarding experience.
How to Become an Ecotourist:
So how does one get involved in ecotourism? The above definition then can really mean a variety of things, and indeed within the ecotourism movement, one will find a wide range of travel opportunities and formats. From nature tourism like an taking an elephant safari through a wildlife reserve in India, to visiting and supporting the indigenous villages of the Akha of Thailand, to simply choosing for sustainable travel option offering low energy costs, the use of recycled materials and so forth - ecotourism can begin anywhere! It is also for anyone, whether a family, student, or even someone traveling on business. Ecotripper.com for example, is working hard on offering exciting eco-friendly travel even here in the U.S. Be sure to check them out. One only needs to choose to travel in this rich and rewarding way. Once one chooses, the door of wonderful opportunities to travel green will be opened - whether visiting the gentle rolling hills of northern California, or the majestic mountains of Nepal!
To note: If one really does care about going ‘green’ on one’s travel adventures, please do be aware that just like any other industry, ecotourism is still driven and thriving on its economic success. Unfortunately, there are businesses that take advantage of local people and/or land use, often not being as ‘eco-friendly’ as they may want to seem. So do do a bit of research when embarking on this wonderful new way of traveling.