About ecotourism

Ecotourism is exploring the world in a curious way, with eyes wide open.

Rafting on the Niemen River, learning Spanish at an environmental school run by indigenous peoples in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, hiking or skiing across the Carpathian mountains, trekking in the Himalayas, participating in safari adventures on the African savanna, tracking large predators in the Romanian Carpathians, kayaking on the Bug River or on the Oder River, birding trips to the Biebrza Marshes, horseback rides into the Mongolian steppe, learning the secrets of local dance and cuisine in Indonesia, handcrafts workshops and bread-baking courses in a remote village in the Bieszczady mountains, climbing up volcanoes in Malaysia’s national parks on the island of Borneo, biking trips on the Amber Trail …

© tekst Dominika Zaręba

What do all these journeys to nearby places or to the most exotic corners of the world have in common? Ecotourism, or an approach to travelling that is sensitive to the natural environment, to local traditions and culture and that is active in its pursuit of knowledge about local places and communities. Today, ecotourism is one of the fastest growing tourist markets in the world, and enjoys a strong position because of its commitment on the one hand to protecting the natural environment, and on the other hand because it supports local jobs, keeps tourist money in the community and boosts the local economy.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism is the most environmentally friendly form of tourism and is at the core of the concept of sustainable tourism. It is organized in areas which are rich in natural as well as cultural resources, the people who are involved in it have a high level of appreciation for the environment and a strong ‘desire’ to discover and learn, while the profit that comes from goes directly to the local community and drives local economies.

Ecotourism is closely linked to many forms of travel and is mutually complementary with them (e.g. active and specialist tourism, landscape tourism, agrotourism, heritage tourism, culinary tourism, adventure tourism, pro-health and health resort tourism etc.), which another one of its strong points and generates the potential needed for the innovative development of regions which have vibrant natural and cultural heritage.

The three most important features of ecotourism which make it distinct from all other forms of tourism are:

  1. Ecotourism is a form of active and in-depth exploration of areas which have superior natural, landscape and cultural value;
  2. Ecotourism actively contributes to the protection of natural and cultural heritage;
  3. Ecotourism is a part of the sustainable development of a region in that it brings real economic as well as societal benefits to local communities and improves the quality of life of their inhabitants.
Definition of the Global Ecotourism Network

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (visitors, staff and the visited).

Ecotourism offers a proactive and meaningful management of travel: it educates both the guest and the business, it enhances the socio-economic growth of the local communities by understanding and participating in a regenerative business, it offers unforgettable experiences and in doing so, helps to erase prejudices and misunderstandings. At its best, ecotourism empowers local peoples through interpretation, recycling of income and a mutual understanding of the relationship between humans and their surrounding environment.

One of the most important benefits of ecotourism aside from its small scale, personalized and interpretative underpinnings is its ability to educate the traveler about nature and about appreciating local cultures. By doing so, it helps us relate to and embrace our fellow humans who are protective stewards of the unimaginable beauty of our delicate world.

Glenn Jampol, Chair, Global Ecotourism Network (GEN), Costa Rica

© Source: „Ekoturystyka”, Zaręba Dominika, Wyd. Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2020, wyd. IV.