Ecotourism - can tourism ever be ecological?

Keskiviikko 18.1.2017 klo 12:30 - Mikko Nikinmaa

During recent years something under the name ecotourism has been the most rapidly increasing trend in tourism. The name has been used of all kinds of trips when the destination has been outside the normal tourist attractions and the object has been to visit some nature site. Thus, in many cases for example cruises to Greenland and Antarctica are advertised as ecotourism. In those instances it is easy to say that the travel is far from being ecological. In the easily disturbed Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems such cruises are already one of the biggest causes behind environmental contamination.

Similarly, safari tours to see the big game in South Africa are named ecotourism. While every effort can be made to diminish the disturbance caused to the animals, the mere approach is more or less the same as the reason for creating zoos. Actually, in my opinion the major difference is that when zoos were founded, a normal person could not travel to the places where the animals live in their natural environment, whereas with affordable air traffic it is possible today.

Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education". There are two things that make ecotourism, in my opinion, impossible. The first is that the sites can be reached only by, e.g. air or boat transport (and local car transport) which generate fossil fuel pollution. The second is that if a nature site becomes popular, environment will be necessarily affected.

There are, however, a couple of very good things which result from nature tourism (note that I use this word pair instead of ecotourism). The incentive for governments to save the habitats with tourist interests increases. The local people can get the financial benefits from the tourists.

In any case we are not talking about ecotourism, because tourism cannot be ecological, but nature tourism, which can have beneficial effects in addition to the negative environmental effects that tourism necessarily causes.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: air traffic, transport, environmental effects