Image: Botswana

Ecotourism, as defined by UNWTO, have the following characteristics:

  1. The primary motivation of tourists is nature-based. They travel to observe and appreciate nature, wildlife, and local culture. 
  2. Part of the itinerary is education and interpretation features.
  3. Tour groups are small, by nature. Tour operators are locally-owned businesses.
  4. There is a conscious effort to minimize the negative impact on the natural and socio-cultural environment. 
  5. Ecotourism maintenance is self-supporting by:

A. Generating its income for host communities through managing protected areas for conservation purposes B. Provision of income opportunities and alternative employment for local communities C. Educating and informing tourists about their natural and cultural assets and how the tourists can help in their conservation

If you are a globetrotter in search of the destination with the best ecological practices, then the list below is for you.

Slovenia

Did you know that this country, nestled between Italy and Croatia, scored 96% as it claimed the title of the very first Certified Green destination of the world in 2016? Its air quality, water and waste, wildlife, and green businesses all passed with flying colors! 

Natura 2000 has declared that 35% of Slovenia is conservation land and should be for the animals and plants’ natural habitat.  Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe. Aside from 60% of the ground covered in greeneries,  the country’s water is potable, too. That’s a big claim, considering a lot of our waters are no longer safe for drinking.  

After snatching the title in 2016, it has not rested on its laurels but continued to win Green Awards worldwide.  Three cheers for Slovenia!

New Zealand

New Zealand has a wide variety of natural wildlife and is among the top countries for conservation. The country has long been an advocate for ecotourism. It is at a great advantage because of the stunningly rugged landscapes, fascinating animal and plant lives, and ecosystems so close to each other. 

The eco-tours offered are:

  1. Bird-watching 
  2. Whale-watching and swimming with Dolphins
  3. Farm Tours – sheep, cattle/dairy, fruits, vegetables, etc.
  4. Volcanic and geothermal geysers
  5. Glowworms and caves
  6. Fjords and Sounds cruises

Botswana

Due to its amazing wildlife and wilderness, scenic landscapes, and unique archaeological and cultural features, Botswana’s tourism arrivals have been on a steady increase. It prompted the government to formulate and adopt a tourism policy aimed at keeping the tourism growth sustainably. 

Botswana’s population numbers to only 2 million, but it is home to 40% of Africa’s elephant population. Botswana’s new breed of lodges provides conscious safari experiences. Many use solar-powered boats and electric vehicles for game viewing. One advantage is that electric vehicles produce less noise; hence, do not scare away wildlife. 

Other resorts use solar energy to power its establishment. They also treat and recycle water onsite. Their goal is to operate hospitality businesses with an emission-free experience. 

Bhutan

The Royal Government of Bhutan believes tourism can be a big mover of socioeconomic progress. However, it still sticks to its policy of sustainable tourism, with “High Value, Low Impact” as its mantra. Thus, the government is on the right path in promoting Bhutan as a high-end destination. Travelers to Bhutan are encouraged to foster a deeper appreciation and respect for the local culture and lifestyle. 

There is a set travel fee (mandated by the government) per day that covers accommodation, food, transportation, and an accredited guide to assist throughout your journey. The government also imposed taxes and use them to give back to the communities – through the hiring of local guides or to local families for homestays. 

And to impress you even more, although the law says that 60% of the country should remain as forest land, at present, the Bhutanese amped it up to a notch higher at 70%. It should ensure a green future for the next generation.

Costa Rica

With rich biodiversity and a vast ecosystem, Costa Rica paves the way in world ecotourism. It is host to the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. With 98% of the country using renewable energy,  supporting 5% of the world’s biodiversity (20 natural parks and 8 biological reserves), this country should be on every ecotourist’s bucket list! 

And the country cannot be an eco-trailblazer if the hotels and resorts do not adhere to the exhaustive set of rules to become Certified Sustainable. Each establishment has categories that include recycling projects, reduced energy consumption, the use of available renewable energy, giving livelihood to the local communities, and utilizing only eco-friendly cleaning detergents. 

Should you decide to travel to Costa Rica, you will not only have a guilt-free vacation. It will be heartwarming to know that you are also contributing to the local communities by adding to the funds of land and animal protection and overall investing in a greener future.

Conclusion:

The above destinations have indeed shown us that we do not have to choose either one or the other. The environment does not have to suffer for business to flourish (or vice-versa). Striking a balance between nature and humanity is a fabulously achievable goal that can only benefit us and the generations to come.

Willy Hobal / www.willyhobal.com