The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the welfare of local people”. Whatever the definition may be, ecotourism is fast dominating the arena of world tourism. Its aim is to preserve and sustain the diversity of the world’s environments. It is offering countries new opportunities for small-enterprise investment and employment and increases the national stake in protecting their biological resources.
According to the Costa Rica Tourism Board, ICT, approximately 49 per cent of the two million visitors who flew to Costa Rica in 2010 participated in ecotourism activities during their stay. The revenue collected was close to $1 billion. The World Tourism Organis-ation says that ecotourism is the fastest growing market in the tourism industry with an annual growth rate of around five per cent worldwide.
Ravi Sharma, publisher of the Travel Trade Journal (TTJ) says, “Ecotourism accommodates and entertains visitors in a way that is minimally intrusive to the environment and sustains and supports the native cultures in the locations it is operating in. Travel companies and services are all beefing up their eco-credentials in order to attract the rising number of customers seeking a “green” experience. Thus, this type of tourism must be properly managed to protect against adverse environmental effects that can come with the overbuilding of tourist facilities and influx of populations around fragile ecosystems.”
By recognising the importance of protecting biological diversity, eco-tourism is raising the appreciation for biological resources and leading to better conservation practices by local populations.
Both travellers and service providers have a responsibility if ecotourism is to really mean anything. For instance, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is promoting green tourism with the country’s tourism operators opening up on the need to answer foreign visitors’ growing ecological concerns. “Travelling green is the only way to preserve the heaven-like reputation of Thailand… I definitely believe that we have to engage local people in this respect. They shall pocket the benefits from an alternative, sustainable type of tourism…,” writes Professor Surachet Chettamart, Dean, Faulty of Tourism, Maha Sarakham University in a TAT book named, Thailand 50 Great Green Escapes.
Back home, the trend is fast catching up and travellers are queuing up for destinations where the flora, fauna and cultural heritage are primary attractions. Though, at present the demand is driven by international travellers, the scenario is changing for better. Says Sunirmal Ghosh of Indo Asia Tours whose project, “Cycling to Coorg” was an entry for the Ministry of Tourism’s annual award for the Most Eco-friendly Project, “Eco-tourism has bright prospects in our country. It is not a new concept in our culture, though we lost track of it completely in the last century. Whether it was about mud houses, gram panchayats or promoting local culture, language, artists and artisans, these activities were nothing new to our civilisation. The positive aspect is that the trend is getting popular and responsible ecotourism aims to minimise the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of the local people.”
In addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by ancillary sectors like hospitality that provide and promote recycling, energy efficiency, water reuse and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities are becoming integral parts of eco-tourism.
Source / Fuente: http://www.deccanchronicle.com
Author / Autor: Rai Umraopati Ray
Date / Fecha: 20/06/11
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