Ecotourism involves visiting natural areas with the objectives of learning, studying, or participating in activities that do not bring negative effects to the environment, whilst protecting and empowering the local community socially and economically. It’s an increasingly popular approach to travel, as concerns about human impact on the world have grown in recent decades.

Environmental issues
By encouraging travellers to behave in an environmentally responsible way, EcoTour operators offer information on how travellers can minimize their impact on the ecosystem and contribute to the protection of fragile ecosystems. They may offer travellers the opportunity to participate in conservation or preservation projects. An important element of this type of project is education. The goal is that through participation, eco travellers will return home with increased awareness and concern for environmental issues and therefore continue to behave in an environmentally conscious way.

Social issues
By involving the local community in aspects of planning, decision-making, ecotourism empowers individuals.

EcoTours may educate travellers through leaflets, interpretation and advice from tour operators or guides about the culture, customs and etiquette of locals. This may prevent conflict between locals and travellers that might have been caused through misunderstanding or ignorance.

Economic issues
By employing local people whenever possible and paying fair wages, ecotourism seeks to prevent exploitation. This benefits the local economy by preventing leakages of the revenue acquired through tourism.

Many Ecotour operators are involved in working on initiatives and projects with the local community such as training and education programs.

CO2 emissions
Travelling, or transport in general, is one of the biggest sources of global carbon emissions (27% of global CO2 in 2005), the cause for climate change. See climnet.org for a comparison of the emissions of different transport modes.

Trains and coaches are almost always less environmentally damaging than planes or cars. If you have to choose between plane and car, try not to use the plane for less than 1000 km. Landing and take-off are very heavy on fuel. Over short distances this leads to very high emissions of CO2 per passenger km.

On all connections rail transport is more energy efficient and cleaner than aircraft. Energy consumption is 40-70% lower and air pollution slightly and up to 85% lower. Over short distances and with average occupancies, coach and rail travel are twice and three times more energy efficient than air transport, over longer distances the difference is slightly less.

To make a transport hierarchy from zero to maximum emissions would be the following:

  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Hitchhiking
  • Bus
  • Boat
  • Train (commuter and night trains have significant lower CO2 footprint then high-speed trains)
  • Car
  • Car with trailer/Camper
  • Airplane

Tags: