The number of ecotourists on the planet grows, one option that benefits not only nature but also to local communities.
According to calculations by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), it is expected that by 2010 one billion people will moving around the globe making leisure trips, i.e. tourism.
A lot of these tourists make up the "ecotourists", who according to the International Ecotourism Society are "responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment and improving the welfare of local communities."
The year 2002 was declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Ecotourism, including all types of nature-based tourism, where the primary motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of this taking this very respect for traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.
Experts agree that ecotourism is an alternative tourism that can be subdivided into:
- Sustainable Tourism.
- Environmentally friendly Tourism.
- Nature Tourism
- Rural tourism
- Scientist Tourism
- "Cottage" Tourism
- Wildlife tourism
- Pristine areas (wilderness)
- Tourism for specialist ( "designer")
- "Hard" tourism
- Adventure tourism.
Eco-tourism in numbers
Although there is no reliable data for global expenditure devoted to ecotourism, is estimated to represent between 10% and 15%, although some predictions reach 30%. Some studies in the United States show that at least 30 million Americans belong to any environmental organization or are interested in environmental protection, which may impact on planning tours in other countries with very different natural attractions of what they can find in their country of origin.
Regarding the situation in Europe after the Spanish tourism fair FITUR was conducted in 1999 concluded that "the environment is the main motivation for tourism over 20 million Europeans. " It was also felt that "small and medium enterprises to help preserve the authenticity and to avoid overcrowding."
So tourism to the Amazon increased by 300% between 1988 and 1989 and something similar happened in Costa Rica between 1992 and 2000, where an estimated 70% of tourist activities ecotourism. Similar trends are displayed in recent years in Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua and in general worldwide.
While interests vary, the most popular touring areas are pristine and observe nature, birds and other animals, nature photography, climbing, or visit when there is good access, mountainous areas, including relatively inactive volcanoes, walks on the river with rafts/kayaking, explore coral reefs, amongst others with all sorts of combinations.
Always logical and there are also some local eco-tourism with its inherent problems, such as relatively high tariffs. How to avoid many of the tourist attractions are accessible only to wealthy people and how to encourage people of limited economic resources, including local students, is an ongoing challenge. In some countries the number of local ecotourists is more than foreign tourists, while in others, such as Belize, the proportion is reversed.
For ecotourism is considered as such, must meet the following basic premises.
The low environmental impact: tourism involves a carefully regulated, practiced by people genuinely interested in nature, willing to cause the least disruption possible and respect local customs. One technique to reduce this impact is "zoning" of protected areas, the most vulnerable areas to access restricted areas while others are allowed visits only.
Biodiversity conservation: Ecotourism has helped draw attention to endangered species and promote their conservation as in the case of quetzal, a bird in the mystical highlands of Central America, especially in cloud forest where it is. The same happens with several beaches to spawn and sea turtles are now protected and visited by ecotourists at night with the tour guides are well trained to track the comments from visitors not to obstruct the taking of turtle eggs from females. As in Kenya which has an estimated worth far more alive than dead wild animal.
Development of educational and scientific activities: Empowerment for ecotourism in protected areas has increased the interest in wildlife and their many interactions.
Economic benefit: The revenue of both direct and indirect tourism to be considerable and tend to increase year after year. Include not only expenditures on hotels, meals, transportation, guide fee, purchase crafts, photographic items, but the entrance fee to national parks and other categories of protected areas. It should be emphasized that it paid in the country by local and foreign ecotourists in general circulation for quite some time before immobilized, which is favorable from an economic point of view.
Improvement of Protected Areas: The income earned through tourism economically, in large part due to the entry of foreign currency, should be reinvested in part to the conservation and sustainable use of protected areas and natural parks which are visited by ecotourists.
Combinations of ecotourism with other forms of tourism: The combination of ecotourism issues with other land uses, and other activities such as archeology has proved to attract a growing number ecotourism.
Benefits for local communities: Ecotourism presupposes understanding of and interest from visitors to the local populations, including indigenous peoples and their way of life. These communities should be economically beneficial for the tourist trade.
However at present have also been some problems of ecotourism, which should go to solve the short and medium term. Some of these negative aspects are: Little reinvestment of the economic contribution of tourism to improve natural resources, loss of traditional rights of nearby residents to the natural resource, excessive foreign influence in order to reap the economic benefits of tourism, construction of hotel infrastructure which impact on married environment, adverse effects on local cultural and security problems.
As a conclusion we can say that with the increase of free time for leisure in the developed countries, a growing proportion of retired persons "elderly" and the growing urban population eager to be reunited with nature-often encouraged by TV shows and other attractions that include the wildlife-based ecotourism's future is encouraging.
Ecotourism General Principles
- Using resources sustainably.
- Reducing consumption and waste.
- Maintaining biodiversity
- Maintaining natural diversity, social and cultural destinations.
- Ensuring a pace, scale and type of development that protect, rather than destroy the diversity, culture and local communities.
- Preventing the destruction of the natural diversity while respecting the carrying capacity and adopting the precautionary principle.
- Tracking the impact of tourism on the flora and fauna of an area of destination.
- Encouraging social and economic diversity through the integration of tourism activities within a local community and with their full participation.
- Promoting the unique aspects of the region, avoiding the homogenization.
- Ensuring that the pace, scale and type of tourism conducive to genuine hospitality and mutual understanding
- Promoting tourism in accordance with local culture, welfare and development aspirations.
- Integrating tourism planning.
- Supporting local economies.
- Involving local economies.
- Consulting with the community.
- Training staff in environmental issues.
- Responsible tourism marketing.
- Conducting research