Eco travel encompasses all the variants of ecotourism and green travel. So whether it’s responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ethical tourism or culturally aware travel, they all fall under the same umbrella of eco travel. Of course, these terms are open for debate and change often, but they have the same ethos at heart. So, in essence, anyone who prefers to travel the green way is an eco traveller.
Definition of Ecotourism
It’s hard to settle on an exact definition of ecotourism as the term can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Even leading associations in the field can’t quite agree. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people.” Therefore, to fully understand the term you need to first figure out what responsible travel is, and so it seems the definitions are interchangeable.
TIES says, “Ecotourism is about connecting conservation, communities and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in responsible tourism 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
Another authority on ecotourism, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, describes it as, “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.” Their principles are much the same as the International Ecotourism Society:
- Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior
- Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
- Support for local conservation efforts
- Sustainable benefits to local communities
- Local participation in decision-making
- Educational components for both the traveler and local communities
So, it seems the definition of ecotourism today incorporates the various travel genres we have become so familiar with, despite debate that each stands alone. And to embrace a way of travelling that reflects the ideologies of ecotourism is what eco travel is about, after all.