What is Ecotourism & Why Is It Important?

what is ecotourism

Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry that plays a vital role in stimulating local economies and employing millions of people every year. However, traditional ways of travel can have detrimental effects on the area’s environment and residents.

Ecotourism allows people to enjoy the same positive experiences of traditional travel without the negative consequences. This form of tourism aims to uplift local people and bring awareness to wildlife. Learn more about ecotourism and why it is important to the future of travel.

What Is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism refers to environmentally conscious and socially responsible travel. It involves tourism to natural areas that is sustainable and benefits the wildlife and local people.

Ecotourists look for environmentally-friendly accommodations in the area that prioritize low or no emissions and are conscientious about their carbon footprint. From reusing bath towels to turning off the air conditioning, these travelers take initiatives to minimize the negative impacts on the region they visit.

This style of travel helps marry conservation efforts and tourism. It inspires stewardship of natural resources while helping protect wild habitats. The money generated through ecotourism helps fund local preservation endeavors and encourages the use of tourism to strengthen environmental conservation.

Ecotourism can also enhance community development by fostering respect and appreciation for the local culture of the place they are visiting. These travelers want to spend their time and money at local establishments that implement sustainability efforts. This offers the local people alternative sources of income and rewards environmentally conscious businesses.

Ecotourism vs. Traditional Tourism

Traditional tourism refers to travel to a location outside a person’s usual setting. It is a vital source of income for millions of people, and it fuels various industries such as transportation and hospitality. Here are a few of the multiple drivers for traditional tourism:

  • Leisure
  • Business
  • Entertainment
  • Education

However, tourism can have damaging effects on the environment and local people. Ecotourism prioritizes environmental conservation and education about the local culture. Its purpose is more deliberate than regular travel.

Traditional tourism does not concern itself with its impacts on the environment. Instead, it prioritizes the traveler’s experience above all else. Ecotourism revolves around minimizing negative effects on wildlife and local communities while supporting conservation efforts.

Because ecotourism serves a different purpose than traditional tourism, the destinations also tend to differ. While other travelers may visit urban areas or commercialized attractions, ecotourists typically visit areas with natural attractions such as:

  • National parks
  • Bodies of water
  • Forests
  • Mountains
  • Farms

History of Ecotourism

history of ecotourism

After the Industrial Revolution, traveling became accessible to millions more people. New and improved transportation systems such as railroads and airplanes made it easier to engage in tourism, whether driving to a beach an hour away or flying across the country to visit a different city.

The influx in travel came with many exciting opportunities but also various problems, including:

  • Air pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Soil erosion
  • Endangering species
  • Global warming

The rise in tourism also had negative social implications in addition to environmental costs. Traditional travel can wreak havoc on the culture and authenticity of a location because it often leads to standardization and the loss of cultural diversity.

And while tourists have enjoyed visiting natural areas for centuries, the concept of ecotourism was not popularized until the early 1980s. It was initially intended to allow travelers to visit exotic natural destinations without causing social or environmental harm.

Ecotourism continued gaining momentum throughout the 1990s and 2000s. People began to understand the planet as an exhaustible resource that requires environmental preservation efforts to maintain and support it. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) began in 1990 and continues to lead in ecotourism education worldwide.

Ecotourism Today

Today, ecotourism is more prevalent than ever before. In 2019, the industry generated more than $181 billion, and experts project that its popularity will only keep growing in the coming years.

The long-term goal of ecotourism is to create travel experiences that are mutually beneficial for tourists and the destination. Ideally, this form of travel will offset some environmental harm created by tourism and offer financial and ecological benefits to the areas travelers visit. It is a movement for social and environmental justice and equality.

Principles of Ecotourism

Sustainability doesn’t happen on its own. Ecotourists must keep a few different considerations in mind when planning a trip. The following are the foundational principles of ecotourism:

  • Minimize your impact: Unlike traditional tourism, ecotourism aims to minimize any impact you have on the environment you’re visiting and the people who live there. Ecotourists try to limit any adverse social or psychological effects of travel on the local population. They also look to eliminate any unfavorable physical or behavioral impacts they have on the area’s ecosystem.
  • Enhance environmental and cultural awareness: Another principle of ecotourism is having respect and raising awareness. Travelers should have respect for the community they are visiting and educate themselves on the customs of the local people. Ecotourists want to use what they learn about different ways of life and natural ecosystems to promote awareness about the destination.
  • Create mutually positive experiences: The cornerstone of ecotourism is being mutually advantageous for the traveler and the region they’re visiting. In addition to helping the local economy, travelers can participate in activities or work that benefits the local community in other ways.
  • Provide financial benefits to local communities: Ecotourism trips boost local economies by providing financial benefits to businesses and individuals. Additionally, it is essential for ecotourists to provide financial benefits to conservation efforts in the areas they visit. Tourism creates employment opportunities and helps to support local infrastructure.
  • Raise sensitivity to local political and social climates: Celebrating a destination’s indigenous people is an essential part of ecotourism. Visitors should recognize the spiritual and political beliefs of the local people and try to understand how those things inform the way of life there.
  • Support low-impact facilities: The final principle of ecotourism is choosing accommodations like hotels and restaurants that minimize waste and are mindful of their impact on the environment.

To consider a trip part of ecotourism, it must follow these principles and aim to minimize travel’s negative environmental and social implications.

Why Is Ecotourism Important?

why is ecotourism important

Traditional tourism can be damaging to a place’s culture and natural ecosystems. Consider the following negative implications of travel:

  • Garbage: Areas that attract a lot of tourism also produce more waste. Litter can negatively impact vegetation and wildlife.
  • Pollution: Busy tourist destinations often have pollution problems from transportation and various utilities.
  • Construction: Clearing natural areas to build tourist accommodations is especially destructive to local ecosystems. It ruins habitats, causes pollution and takes away from natural landscapes.

Ecotourism can make travel beneficial to conservation and sustainability efforts. It can shed light on important natural spaces while stimulating the local economy and improving well-being.

While traditional travel can boost local economies, it can have damaging effects in other areas. Ecotourism aims to have financial benefits for the communities they are visiting while simultaneously benefitting the local environment and people. The money made from sustainable travel can create jobs and support regional conservation.

Ecotourism enhances conservation and shows the significance of protecting the integrity of our local ecosystems and cultures. Overall, it makes traveling mutually beneficial for visitors and the places they visit.

Benefits of Ecotourism

There are many advantages when it comes to ecotourism, including the following:

Educational

This style of traveling can be highly educational. It enhances awareness about climate change and its impacts on local communities. Travelers can learn about endangered species and how things like pollution or litter can further threaten wildlife. Plus, researching ecotourism accommodations and visiting new regions mindfully is education in and of itself.

Environmental

Ecotourism aids in the protection of natural habitats. This is especially important in poorer regions with economies that rely on their natural resources. With ecotourism, communities can create a more profitable economy while projecting their environmental resources. Many businesses might have information regarding their environmental efforts published on their websites.

Sustainable travel can boost awareness about various environments and the importance of choosing accommodations that minimize their harm to the immediate area and the planet.

Economic

There are also financial advantages associated with ecotourism, including the following:

  • Generates more business: Ecotourists spend money at locally-owned businesses rather than commercial stores and restaurants.
  • Creates jobs: An influx in ecotourism can create new job opportunities for residents.
  • Improved quality of life: By bringing the financial benefits of tourism but minimizing its negative implications, ecotourism can enhance the local quality of life.

Social

Another benefit of ecotourism is improving local communities and gaining a deeper understanding of their way of life. This style of tourism is more sensitive toward cultures and the impact that local travel has on people’s lifestyles.

Different Forms of Ecotourism

There are multiple ways to approach an ecotourism trip:

  • Agro-tourism: With agro-tourism, travelers can choose to visit or volunteer in agricultural communities in rural areas. They can either assist in farming efforts or learn more about effective, sustainable farming practices.
  • Community development: Another approach to ecotourism is through community development activities like planting trees or helping build homes. These initiatives support the local area and can offset some of the effects of traditional tourism. Visitors could also participate in other community volunteer programs at local schools or research centers.
  • Eco-lodging: Eco-lodging refers to ecotourism accommodations that aim to minimize the negative impacts of developing lodging in natural environments. This style of travel allows travelers to enjoy a place to stay that has little effect on the plant and enhances local conservation efforts.
  • Eco-tours: Some ecotourism trips incorporate special eco-tour outings. Visitors can take part in tours through natural areas that feature things like endangered species or exotic wildlife. These tours may involve hiking or swimming, depending on the nature of the excursion. All tours aim to educate tourists and support conservation while limiting the physical harm done by participants.

Ways to Get Involved in Ecotourism

ways to get involved in ecotourism

If you are interested in participating in ecotourism, you may be wondering how to get involved. The following are ways you can incorporate sustainability into your travel plans:

  • Do your research: Preparation is the key to a successful ecotourism trip. You should check out available accommodations in the area that promote environmentally-conscious practices. Learn about the local community and their way of life before visiting. Make sure you understand the landscape and culture so you can be respectful and take greener initiatives while there.
  • Buy local products: When traveling, consider exclusively buying locally-made goods. This helps stimulate the area’s economy and give back to the people there. Buying imported products negatively impacts the environment and often supports larger, non-local corporations that do not give back to the area.
  • Be mindful about transportation: If you want to travel more sustainably, be careful about your modes of transportation, starting with your flight. Non-stop flights are best because they consume less fuel. When you visit the local region, utilize public transportation instead of renting a car. Walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible to reduce air pollution.
  • Minimize waste: When traveling, prioritize limiting waste however you can. Aim to limit your water and electricity usage. Follow zero-waste initiatives like asking for housekeeping to forgo daily laundry and opting for reusable containers and sustainable toiletries whenever possible. Small changes like bringing a bamboo toothbrush or downloading your boarding pass digitally can make a difference.
  • Respect the native wildlife: One of the most important facets of ecotourism is respecting your destination’s wildlife. Be sure to educate yourself on the area you plan to visit. Support endangered species by giving to local organizations that help protect them and spread awareness.

Understanding ecotourism’s key principles and its significance in social and environmental conservation efforts allows you to make more informed decisions on your next ecotourism trip.

Ecotourism in New Jersey

There are many exciting and diverse ecotourism destinations throughout New Jersey. From thousands of hiking trails to miles of shoreline, there are tons of sustainable travel opportunities to pick from. Any naturalist looking to embark on a new ecotourism adventure is sure to enjoy all that the Garden State has to offer. You can go bird watching or grab your GPS and a bike and hit as many geocaches as you can!

Explore Ecotourism in Ocean City, New Jersey

Looking to book an ecotourism trip to Ocean City, New Jersey? There are many accommodations and local businesses to make your stay sustainable and fun. Bring your binoculars — you’ll want to see all that Ocean City has to offer.

From wetlands to wildlife refuges, there are many sights to take in. An ecotourism trip can help you find a new appreciation for our local landscape and the many people who work and live here.

Are you interested in learning more or have any questions? Contact the Regional Chamber of Commerce today!

explore ecotourism in Ocean City

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