Ecotourism is a type of tourism that entails a person or a group of persons visiting natural areas that encourage the conservation of environment, ensures a sustainable living environment for the local people and also it involves education. The main reason behind ecotourism is the need to unite communities, conservation and well-managed travel. Ecotourism serves different purposes which include; provision of funds for conservation of ecology, encourages development economically and also benefits the local communities through political empowerment. It majorly focuses on the social travels, sustainable environment and personal growth. It brings out an insight to tourists on the effects that human beings have on the environment and also is intended to foster the appreciation of the natural resources.
Benefits of ecotourism to local communities
Most of the ecotourism enterprises involve management that is controlled at the local level. The members of a community get involved in all the steps and stages of ecotourism management and also help in empowering tourist and encourage them to the community. Ecotourism creates employment to the local communities, which helps to reduce rural-urban migration in search of jobs. Employment can be as a form of the locals working as tour guides, providing accommodation and food. It improves the living standards of community with facilities such as hospitals, electricity, clean working environment and improved roads. Ecotourism helps reduces poverty on a long-term solution, unlike the charitable handout. Ecotourism encourages cultural preservation since it provides a platform for cultural interaction between the locals and tourists. It brings the best on the social and political issues in a community since the community may not want the visitors to witness the ugly side of it.
Ecotourism and Displacement of People
In most cases, communities have been moved for the purpose of creation of a park. In most countries, communities have been displaced with about seventy percent of parks in pastoralist’s communities land. Most communities that have been displaced have been because of their ignorance and assumption of the situation. The ignorant communities mostly do not benefit from an economic gains and employment in the areas mostly favours the educated which is something that misses in that community. Displacement of people can occur as a result of government manipulating the local communities or even without the knowledge and consultation of the local people. In some cases, ecotourism has exploited and depleted the local people making it a tool that doesn’t empower the local community who ensure that it is satisfying and rich.
The prevailing trend in travel nowadays is ecotourism. All over the world, ecotourism is thriving since tourists are always looking for something new and exciting. Gone are the days when tourists set their sights on highly urbanized areas. Nowadays, travelers opt for ecotourism packages where one discovers a whole lot more. Why is ecotourism so popular these days? For one, it creates environmental awareness. During ecotours, travelers educate themselves on how they can contribute to the preservation of the environment such as planting trees, collecting garbage, donating for a good cause, among others. They make it a goal to make a difference even after the trip is over. Another benefit of ecotourism is the preservation of the environment. Ecotourists are exposed on how these ecotourism sites are preserved. They make it their responsibility to conserve and preserve the local site so that generations to come may appreciate its beauty. Ecotours also provide livelihood and income to the local people in the communities. Since most of the local residents are poor, ecotourism gives them an opportunity to earn extra income. For instance, in a local village, the residents act as tour guides and teach tourists their culture and tradition such as cooking local food, performing songs and dances, etc. Some ecotourists even refrain from staying in hotels and live temporarily with the local residents.
Due to the growing interest in ecotours, several countries are offering this kind of travel to tourists. This kind of travel creates a win-win situation for all parties involved – preservation of the flora and fauna biodiversity, creating environmental awareness, and contributing to the livelihood and income of the local residents. Hence, governments all over the world have enacted laws and policies to support ecotourism in their country.
In the Philippines, ecotourism is highly observed particularly in Palawan (considered as the ecotourism capital of the Philippines) and Bohol. Among the ecotourism sites are the Tubattaha Reef National Marine Park and World Heritage Site, Batanes Islands, Cordillera Rice Terraces, Apo Reef, Apo Island Marine Sanctuary, Taal Volcano and Tagaytay City, Mount Makiling, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary and Game Preserve, Malampaya Seascape, Tabon Caves, St. Paul National Park, among others. Ecotourism activities for travelers are whale watching, scuba diving, kayaking/rafting, mountain climbing, wildlife observation, surfing, trekking, among others.
The next time you plan your trip, choose an ecotour package – the rewards are greater.