Despite the brief recovery that Covid-19 has allowed our environment, our planet is still in peril. Global warming remains a prominent issue, pollution levels continue to rise, and biodiversity levels have been reduced to an all-time low with 25% of all bird species, 24% of mammals, 11% of plants and 24% of coral reefs having already been lost. However, ecotourism has the potential to combat these issues.
As we slowly emerge from a year of lockdowns and isolation periods, I think that it is safe to say that we are all unbelievably excited for a holiday, an adventure, a retreat to somewhere where we can forget the past year or so and relax!
But before you rush online to book your next trip, just take a minute to think: is this what EVERYONE else is going to be doing? With only a few countries currently on the UK green list, (Red, amber and green list rules for entering England) these countries are likely to be overwhelmed with tourists desperate for a holiday and, (if you’re from the rainy UK like me) some sunshine!
As great as it seems to finally be allowed to travel, it pays to be a conscious traveller and consider the effects that overtourism will have on the environment and local communities. Overtourism, simply defined, is tourism that harms the environment and communities by overuse or destruction of resources through overcrowding.
Both developing and wealthier countries can be sensitive to the effects of overtourism – excess waste, litter, displacement of local people, disruption of wildlife and destruction of habitats – these are just some of the issues associated with large influxes of tourists to one place.
So, what can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen?
Ecotourism is a much safer, more sustainable alternative resulting from carefully planned tourism policies developed with local communities. Below are just a few of the ways that being an ecotourist can help protect and conserve our beautiful planet.
- Reduces overtourism by allowing revenue to be distributed more evenly rather than just benefitting hotspots.
- Facilitates partnerships with local communities to benefit them.
- Promotes a more sustainable, conscious way of travelling.
- Protects the natural and cultural heritage of our planet.
- Empowers local communities and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Promotes greater understanding of nature and the environment.
- Provides positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Raises awareness of local cultures and works with them to create empowerment.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
So before booking your holiday to a green listed country as soon as you can, have a think about the potential consequences of this and consider the alternatives. Or, if you are travelling to a green listed country, do some research and opt for an eco-tourist experience to minimise unsustainable pressures on the environment and communities. You never know – you may find something better!
Why not wait a little longer to travel to a country in need of more tourists? Maybe save a little more money and book through a company that gives back to communities? Or wait until the crowds die down and really appreciate the environment?
By opting to travel as an ecotourist you are taking a step in the right direction in doing your bit for the planet. It only makes sense to conserve our beautiful world to enjoy it for as long as possible, right? So, take the time to consider how to be an ecotourist with these handy tips below!
- Cut down on waste:
- Cut down on single use plastics – we’ve all heard this one a lot in recent years, but it can really help to carry your own reusable water bottle and avoid using mini hotel shampoos and condiments.
- Don’t change your linen too often – avoid washing towels and bedding after minimal use to save water.
- Pick up litter – we all know not to litter but unfortunately there is still too much rubbish, so get involved in cleaning up our planet by ensuring you leave no mess.
- Reduce your emissions:
- Offset your flying – most airlines offer you the chance to offset your journey or sponsor a tree planting group.
- Consider slow travel – this travel method enables you to really soak up the culture and minimise staying in too many different locations, as this can result in overuse of resources. Check out What is Slow Travel? And How to Do It | Remote Year.
- Cut down on transport – walking is not only good for your health, but reduces harmful emissions caused by vehicles – you might discover hidden gems by walking too!
- Travel during off season – consider this as we all begin to emerge from lockdown in different stages – this will help to reduce the problem of overtourism and will be cheaper for you!
- Keep it local:
- Buy local – try helping local communities and businesses by buying local products for their profitability.
- Try homestays – booking local accommodation means that local communities are more likely to benefit and often you get a greater cultural experience.
- Protect the environment:
- Try a “hands off” approach – with nature and wildlife especially, it is often better to avoid causing disturbances by observing from a distance to protect the environment.
- Use ocean-friendly sun creams – many people don’t realise that most sun creams contain harmful chemicals that destroy coral reefs, so try buying more environmentally friendly products. Check out Best eco-friendly sunscreen 2020: Ocean and reef safe SPFs | The Independent.
These top tips are just some of the ways in which you can make a change and protect our environment, however big or small. As much as we all want a holiday, we can make sure that we travel in a way that is safe, ethical and sustainable for communities and the environment alike.
For more on ecotourism and ecotourist tips, check out Terra Incognita’s Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct for 7 principles that ecotourism companies (and guests) should follow, 6 easy ways to be an ecotourist, and 10 ecotourism tips for the ethical traveller.
Take the step to becoming an ecotourist today and see how many positive changes you can make for your next trip!
About the Author
Beth Beale is an undergraduate student studying geography and sport management at Loughborough university. She has a passion for environmental conservation and ecotourism, and would love to ensure that people can experience and appreciate the amazing world that we are a part of. She loves to travel and explore new places, and has lots of exciting trips planned for the future!