Tourism is an important part of the economy for many countries around the world. During FY14/15, tourism in Australia represented 3.0% of the GDP, contributing $47.5 billion to the national economy. It also employed 5% of the Australian workforce.
Unfortunately, it can also be a drain on natural resources and create an enormous carbon footprint. To combat this, airlines, tourism companies, and travellers are coming together to promote ecotourism – a way to travel sustainably.
In this blog, we explain what ecotourism is, why it’s important and how you can take part. Keep reading to learn more.
What is ecotourism?
Put simply, ecotourism is socially and environmentally responsible travel. Intended as an alternative to commercial mass tourism, it involves visiting fragile and relatively undisturbed natural areas and improving the well-being of the local people.
Ecotourists also seek to experience authentic and educational tours about the location they have visited, providing insight into the impact of human beings on the environment. They may also become involved in projects that will benefit the region, allowing them to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.
Airlines reducing emissions with carbon offsets
The largest impact tourism of any kind has on the environment is air travel. Air traffic around the world grew by 5.2% from June 2015 to June 2016 and carbon emissions are growing by approximately 2-3% every year.
Airlines such as Qantas and Virgin Australia are doing their part to help offset these emissions and have also offered passengers the chance to contribute. When purchasing tickets, you can add “carbon credits” to the cost, which will be donated to projects around the world that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These projects include restoring and protecting forests, developing renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency. They also bring social benefits to local communities involved and form an important part of ecotourism.
What else can you do?
Aside from purchasing carbon offsets and choosing a sustainable destination, there are plenty of other things you can do to travel sustainably. The main way being simply, “Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints.” This phrase has been around since the 50s, in relation to the exploration, study and conservation of caves in Baltimore and has spread across the world.
You can also consider reducing your plastic use by travelling with a reusable water bottle, limiting your energy and water usage (as tempting as those long hotel showers may be) and shopping local to wherever you’re visiting.
However you choose to be an ecotourist is up to you. No matter how big or small your contribution is, you’re helping to ensure our world’s natural wonders are there for future generations to appreciate.