Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A guest post on Eco-tourism

This is a guest post kindly supplied by Helen Cross of

The Importance of being eco

I recently featured Ras Mbisi in a blog I wrote for Simonseeks about ecotourism. To me ecotourism is more than just a trend: it’s a necessary evolution of the travel industry. As stated in my blog; the effects of badly managed tourism are far wider reaching than the simple, yet horrific, degradation of a beautiful place: environmental damage leads to the loss of livelihoods, damages economies and can lead to the extinction of species; in fact a recent conservation study warned that one fifth of animal and plant species are under the risk of extinction. In its broadest sense, eco-tourism should protect humans, animals and plants alike. There appear to be limitless eco-tourism companies at the moment but there is a danger, as with any trend, that some disingenuous companies may be using the warm and fuzzy connotations that come with the ‘eco’ tag, without putting in the hard work to make sure their experiences truly are sustainable. This phenomenon has become so widespread that a term has even been coined to describe it: ‘greenwashing’, meaning the marketing of a company as environmentally friendly purely to increase sales or improve customer perception, and without any basis in reality.
The International Ecotourism Society has defined a set of principles that an organisation must meet to truly call themselves ‘eco’:
• Creates an international network of individuals, institutions and the tourism industry;
• Educates tourists and tourism professionals; and
• Influences the tourism industry, public institutions and donors to integrate the principles of ecotourism into their operations and policies.

Horror stories of ‘fake’ ecotourism abound: the company outed by Survival International for banning Kalahari Bushmen from their ancestral land and water supplies, whilst simultaneously offering ‘nature walks’ with the very same Bushmen, or the elephant trekking companies in South East Asia that seem to consist of a few malnourished animals forced to carry the weight of tourists through steep jungle paths. As our natural environment is continually damaged by tourism, one can only hope that eco-tourism becomes the norm rather than the exception, and that ‘green-washing’ becomes a thing of the past. As it stands, take a real look at the ethics of the companies you entrust with your holiday, it will benefit far more than just your conscience.
This is a guest post written by Helen Cross, a keen traveller and eco-enthusiast who works for new travel site Simonseeks

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