By Stacey Hunter, BC Hughes Tourism Consulting
When searching for vacation ideas, type in the word ‘Eco’ and see what Google yields. I, like most travellers had never really looked deep into what exactly “ecotourism” meant and always had my own perceptions. When staying at hotels I always reuse my towels and “recycle” the shampoo and soap containers by bringing them home with me. I had always just assumed that this is what ecotourism was and that I could call myself an eco-tourist. When I read about resorts being eco-resorts, I always just assumed it meant you slept in the mud, used candlelight and ate organic. Little did I know mainstream ecotourism meant something much more.
After doing some research I found out that ecotourism is a type of travel that:
- takes place in natural areas where people don’t usually visit,
- has minimal impact to the area, and
- builds awareness of the species and locals to that area.
In return your travel to an eco-destination financially assists in the protection of that destination. By being an eco-tourist you must be ecologically and environmentally aware of the places you visit.
It all sounds prudish, and likely has you thinking “but I’d much rather my 4 star accommodation in Vegas”. Travelling ecotourism style doesn’t mean giving up luxury and pina colada’s by the pool. There is a relatively new ecotourism philosophy taking hold in the mainstream tourism industry. Take Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia for example. Missool is a luxury dive resort that offers enriching experiences that benefit and sustain the landscape and community surrounding them. Some examples of what Miscol Eco Resort does in order to be an Eco Resort:
- Hiring locals as staff
- Assisting the community with sponsorships or donations
- Using recycled material to construct the building(s)
- Educating visitors about the land and species around the destination
- Minimizing the consumption of fossil fuels the destination uses (for example using wind turbines and solar power)
- Minimizing waste by composting, recycling, avoiding pesticides and asking guests to pack environmentally responsibly (for example avoiding packing plastic bags, bottles etc.)
Researching eco-tourism made me wonder why we still travel any other way?
Why not take an exciting vacation all while becoming enlightened about your destination and positively impacting the area you are visiting. If I can go on a trip that is not only enjoyable but is socially and environmentally responsible then why wouldn’t I?
You don’t have to take an eco-safari in Africa to become an eco-tourist. Many would be surprised to know even here in Ontario we have eco-resort opportunities. Elk Lake Eco centre in Elk Lake enlightens guests within the magnificent Boreal Forest, while placing tremendous effort on serving local foods. Cedar Meadow Resort & Spa in Timmins offers a luxurious experience and wildlife tours right from the doorstep of their resort. Northern Edge Algonquin offers retreats and adventures at their “oasis from this hyperconnected world”, a sustainable and environmentally sound resort.
If resort owners make the effort to make a difference, we at least owe it to them to given them the consideration when planning our next vacation.
Stacey Hunter is a tourism researcher with BC Hughes Tourism Consulting and has traveled to 16 countries around the world, with the goal to become enriched through experiencing local cultures.