What Is Eco Tourism? A Costa Rica Case Study.
This week i’m going back to basics, asking what is Eco Tourism? I take a close look at Costa Rica a classic case study of global sustainable travel.
‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.’ Mahatma Gandhi
What is Eco Tourism? Let’s be honest, it’s kinda on a lotta people’s minds at the moment. And for good reason. The impact the travel sector has on our planet is pretty huge. When we travel we often take too much, when we should be giving back instead.
What is eco tourism?
The International Ecotourism Society has defined ecotourism as:
‘Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education’
To put things in perspective, think about just one person’s journey across the world, and the ways in which their journey will affect the environment. From the moment you leave for your trip, your carbon footprint is visible.
That taxi ride to the airport. The food you consumed in the airport lounge. The plastic bottles you drank from on the plane. The plane itself. Tourism now accounts for more than 60% of air travel, so it has got a lot to answer for.
And then, when you get to your destination of choice, there’s the hotel stay including electricity and water usage, getting around, all the stuff you consume and your presence will also affect local communities.
The breadth of eco travel extends far more than you might expect. Unsustainable tourism causes the depletion of natural resources, waste and littering, pollution, deforestation, unsustainable infrastructure development, and climate change, to name a few. Shockingly, a tourist in the Mediterranean can use up to 440 litres of water per day, nearly double what a regular Spanish city-dweller would use.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Tourism can be sustainable and contribute to local places and environments.
What makes a holiday sustainable?
Enter ‘eco tourism’, a way of minimising the impact that travel has on our precious world. According to the International Ecotourism Society, for a trip to qualify as ecotourism, it needs to consider the following things:
- Create respect for the environment and cultural practices
- Provide positive experiences for visitors and host
- Contribute to conservation
- Provide benefits to the local people
However, sustainable travel goes much deeper than just ticking these boxes. As well as the environment, there are economic, social and cultural impacts too. Like when a traditional ethnic festival gets downplayed and simplified for tourists, or when big tour company takes all the profit and local suppliers earn absolute peanuts.
But don’t hang your head in your hands yet. We’re not fighting a losing battle here. Ecotourism is on the rise, and ploughing its way into mainstream tourism. Expect more and more companies to recognise the importance of sustainable practices.
Pioneers, like ourselves, can lead the revolution. We pledge to help build a sustainable tourism industry that involves and protects local people and environments, rewarding them fairly for their valuable contribution.
Costa Rica as an example of ecotourism
If there’s anywhere that offers a perfect example of ecotourism it’s Costa Rica. Often heralded as the hero of sustainable travel initiatives and the birthplace of ecotourism, Costa Rica is fighting hard to make a difference. Costa Rica is also en route to becoming the first carbon neutral country by 2021. Now that’s inspiring.
Oh, and they’ve also devoted an estimated 26% of their land to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected lands. Costa Rica is living proof that conservation and economic growth can go hand in hand. Take Manuel Antonio National Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve for example. They are a haven for both ecotourism and sustainable development.
Costa Rica offers so many epic and exciting travel experiences, from wildlife encounters and conservation to volcanoes, beaches and waterfalls.