Can tourism and the conservation and protection of local areas go together?

You will often hear tourism called the “world’s biggest industry”, a claim made on the basis of its contribution to world GDP, the number of people employed in tourism and the number of clients served.

Fortunately, responsible tourism is beginning to take a significant share of the global tourism market, with annual growth at around 30%, and travellers seem to be placing increasing priority on the footprint created by their choice of holiday. According to a recent report by The International Ecotourism Society:

– Nearly half of those surveyed in Britain said they would be more likely to go with a company that had a written code to guarantee good working conditions, protect the environment and support local charities in the tourist destination.

– In the UK, 87% said their holiday should not damage the environment, and 39% said they were prepared to pay 5% extra for ethical guarantees.

The rate at which tourism is growing presents both opportunities and threats to the biodiversity and conservation of the natural world and local cultures. Maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem is both one of the highest priorities and one of the biggest challenges we face in modern times.

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Carefully planned and implemented tourism can be a sustainable economic opportunity for local communities as well as a successful conservation strategy and provide an accessible way for people to experience the incredible wealth of natural beauty there is to be seen, and through this encourage people to take an active interest in the preservation of these habitats for future generations.

There is a clear need for all of us working in the travel industry to ensure that the positive aspects of tourism are developed and that negative aspects are reduced or avoided by developing a responsible approach to tourism. In this way, tourism can make a real contribution to the long-term future of a country’s wildlife, people, culture and heritage.

We would welcome your comments and thoughts on this topic – what does “ecotourism” mean to you? How important a part does it play in your choice of holiday activity or destination? Tell us what you think!

Best regards

The Nature Travels team

Visit our website for more information on Nature Travels’ environmental policies. To read the full International Ecotourism Society report, see here.

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