Sustainable Travel: Going Beyond Ecotourism

Now more than ever, travelers are recognizing that the vacations they take impact the locations they visit. Ecotourism has been popularized as a solution to minimizing environmental impacts of travel while still creating a memorable trip for the tourist. Sustainable tourism takes this initiative several steps further as it also creates opportunities for local businesses and economies. So which one is the better option for your next vacation? Here we discuss the differences between the two types of tourism and how your next trip can be one that helps in more ways than imagined.

What is ecotourism and what are its benefits?

Ecotourism is a type of travel that is rising in popularity, directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife, according to the Oxford Dictionary. This type of travel is meant to minimize the ecological impact, while still visiting natural habitats. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests. The benefits of traveling in such a way include preserving the environment, as there is much less mining and agricultural destruction. Tourists want to see the beauty of the nature and corresponding wildlife, so there is an emphasis on practicing conservation. Additionally, locals gain employment to help these tourists by running wildlife or game parks, preparing food, and running lodging.

How does sustainable tourism go beyond ecotourism and its benefits? Why should you do this over ecotourism?

Sustainable tourism is a way of travel that offers a unique and amazing experience to the traveler and connects people, while also protecting our best assets: our nature, our culture, our communities, our history, and our planet (World Travel & Tourism Council). Sustainable tourism goes beyond ecotourism because it focuses on more than just protecting the environment. This holistic approach is important because it means that your impact as a travel is overall a more positive one.

Kelley Louise, the founder of the Impact Travel Alliance, has shared powerful words on what sustainable tourism means: “In its simplest definition, sustainable tourism is just travel that has a positive impact on the environment, culture, and economy of a destination. When most people think about sustainability, their knee-jerk reaction is to connect it with voluntourism or ecotourism, but it’s really important we shift this mindset.”

Sustainable traveling benefits a multitude of areas. These benefits include the encouragement of the preservation of environment and natural wildlife, the support of local economies and cultures by creating jobs for locals and supplementing normal incomes, heightened awareness of social justice issues, and a mutual understanding between both the traveler and the local.

How does ExplorEquity fit in?

We are a sustainable travel company that works exclusively with locally-owned businesses. Additionally, we do in-depth research to decide who to partner with and consider sustainability in our decision-making. For example, sometimes small family-run hotels don’t have great environmental sustainability practices. We would still partner with them because we prioritize the human aspect of sustainability and would choose to work with a locally-owned hotel over a foreign-owned hotel that may have environmental sustainability practices in place. Ideally, we would aim to partner with locally-owned businesses that are also environmentally sustainable. And we’re committed to providing feedback to partners encouraging them to develop improved environmental sustainability practices, while also spreading awareness of sustainable tourism through our digital platforms.

Our Last Words

Ultimately, a place is more than just its natural environment. By deciding to engage in sustainable tourism, you can go beyond helping just nature, but also helping locals, their businesses, and their economies to succeed. You don’t walk away empty-handed- you gain a better understanding of a people’s culture and country, You can develop more authentic connections with locals, based on a more ethical exchange found in typical tourism. As we all look ahead to the future of travel, we hope all of you will ensure it is more sustainable and supportive to the destinations we are excited to visit. Let’s all continue to spread the word about sustainable tourism and its powerful impacts!