Along with other resource persons, namely Harro Boekhold of Contour Projects and Mr. Joselito Bernardo of the Asian Productivity Organization, we conducted the Train the Trainers in Ecotourism Planning & Management Course at the International School of Sustainable Tourism, in Subic Bay, Philippines. Apparently, among the Asia Pacific participants, there is still much confusion and ambiguities of the term “Ecotourism”.
Not surprisingly, more so for the travel and tourism suppliers and market. Unfortunately the “eco” trend in the past years has triggered the travel industry to inundate the market with misused and misunderstood eco -labeled tourism products, from hotel accommodations to tours, from lodges to excursions, causing misrepresentation and misunderstanding among travelers from the tourism industry as to what the term “ecotourism” genuinely embodies.
So once and for all, we are clarifying the essence and emphasizing the basic elements of Ecotourism.
- Aims to conserve biodiversity
- Sustains the well being of local people
- Includes a learning experience
- Requires lowest possible consumption of non-renewable resources
- Stresses local participation, ownership and business opportunities, particularly for rural people
If your destination, property or activities does not have ALL of the above essential elements, then it is NOT “ecotourism”. In addition to these ecological essentials, Ecotourism has also these fundamental nature, no pun intended:
- A greater focus on authenticity in terms of destinations, products and experiences
- It is “Green consumerism” – increased environmental awareness and concern about issues such as climate change and global warming
- Sustainability should be at the heart of every tourism business and tourism product
- Every tourism component- transport, accommodation, activities – should be ‘eco-friendly’
- Ecotourism suppliers must keep it simple and sincere – genuine “green”!
Common ‘Eco confusion’:
- “Green washing”: doing green vs. being green: just because you plant a tree, does not mean yours is already an ecotourism company. Must always have all the FIVE elements: not 4, 3, 2 or 1 only!
- Must not be confused with Community-based tourism, Pro-poor tourism, Nature tourism, Adventure travel. As mentioned, all the five eco essentials must be in place. ‘Nuff said.
To date, Ecotourism is just tiny niche of the global tourism market, has no traction yet and has just started to be mainstreamed. Tourism has an enormous potential, but without principles that fosters responsibility and sustainability it can harm our planet and wreck havoc to fragile or endangered tourism destinations. So no more confusions, no doubt about it. Don’t be misled by all the “eco-ish” labels. Just memorize the 5 ECO elements; YOU cannot go wrong. Go green!
Photos courtesy of Inkaterra, Peru’s eco pioneer and Conservation Leader since 1975.
The Coron Initiative , The Boracay Initiative & The Negros Initiative are Sustainable Tourism, Conservation and Social Responsibility frameworks being implemented with institutional partners Green Hotels, The Clean Blue & Zero Carbon Resorts. Sustainability Capacity Building and Training programs towards a green economy for cities, communities and destinations include Good Governance, Rio 21 Agenda, Waste Management/3Rs/MRF, Resilience, Disaster Prevention and Management. Educational programs can be customized for public and private stakeholders, local government units, private businesses and the local community in general. For more info, visit our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc. website or contact SSTDI on how we can help.