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Eco-tourism explained     Archive

Claire Mitchell suggests ways to plan planet-friendly holidays

It is estimated that by 2001, one billion people will travel the globe on holiday. Many will want to go to exotic, remote places, well off the beaten track, knowing that their very presence is likely to change these places forever. Tourists threaten fragile ecosystems, bringing bad as well as good to the economy, cultural life and local environment.
How does the aware twenty-first century traveller combat this? By becoming an eco tourist.


The word ‘eco-tourism’ can mean many things, from a bus tour through rainforests to community based tourism amongst indigenous tribes to somewhere on your own doorstep.

The common threads of eco-tourism are environmental sustainability and community-based operations that support the local indigenous peoples. That may sound boring and virtuous, but you’d be wrong to think so. This is not about the politically correct holiday listening to production statistics at a tractor factory in Russia or picking up rubbish along the banks of the River Nile (although you can still book a holiday like that if you can beat the waiting list!). Eco-tourism means doing positive things for your host communities whilst having fun at the same time.

You don’t have to travel to wild and remote places, or even to go on organised tours. Eco-tourism is, in part, an attitude of mind that you can take anywhere. You can experience local communities and practice ecologically sustainable tourism by electing to stay in a small B&B or gite on your next domestic or European holiday. You can make sure you buy local, authentic souvenirs rather than mass produced gimmicks. You can eat at local cafes and restaurants, buy local food and potter around back country lanes by bike!

On the other hand, the world can be your oyster. Organised tours can be for a day or a month. You could try anything from drumming classes in Senegal, to a township tour with a Xhosa guide in South Africa, to yak trekking in Mongolia. You can go on a whale watching trip in New Zealand, or a walk through the Amazon with a local Amerindian, who will point out the health properties of jungle plants. Accommodation can be in the most luxurious of safari lodges or in a local mud hut. All ages are welcome.

Support for the local community is a loose expression. Some tours or holidays are run by local tribes with most or all of the profits being ploughed back into community. Other tours may be commercial, but with a substantial percentage of the profits being earmarked for local endeavours such as education or health.

What eco-tourism does is allow you to have an adventurous holiday whilst doing your bit to preserve the environment or to support a local community in their effort to achieve a balance between their traditional culture and the twenty-first century. You get a chance to learn a new skill or experience something challenging, or to add a new dimension to the annual holiday.

So if you are now heading off on the Web to book your llama-trek in Peru, or a tour of Sydney’s original sites with an aboriginal guide, or maybe just a week walking in the Dordogne - remember, the feel-good factor about sustainable tourism and enjoy!

Web sites for more information - An organisation that particularly encourages community-based tourism in third world nations. They publish a very helpful guide giving details of tours and other organisations.

Eco tour directory

Their directory contains listings of organisations who can help to plan eco holidays. You may be looking for eco tours in wilderness of Alaska or perhaps a stay in an ecolodge deep in the rainforests of Costa Rica.



laterlife interest

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