A new word has entered our vocabulary, especially those of us who are involved in the travel industry either as travel agents, vacationers or resort operators. The word is ecotourism. We see it in articles and advertisements. There are even international conferences on ecotourism. So what is it or what should it be?
Ecotourism is not the opening of vast new virgin areas under the guise of keeping it clean. My first view of this was that a few tour operators who were running out of places to send people decided they needed to open new unspoiled lands but could not figure out how to do it so they came up with a word called ecotourism and a lot of people fell for it. Many more jumped on the bandwagon calling themselves green hotels, claiming they were environmentally aware because they put a water reducing showerhead in one room. That isn’t true for all but there will always be unscrupulous people who take advantage of anything, anywhere.
So what should ecotourism be? It must be an educational process in areas that tourism is already established. Education for both the citizens and for the visitors, participation in the preservation of our earth and more specific our own lands and homes. To simply say here is a whole new world you can all visit now but be careful, will not work. Everyone must realize that our world is a natural resource that in some cases is being abused and in our children’s children’s lifetime it might not return to its natural state.
Unfortunately the word greed comes up too often where money far outweighs any concern for ecology. Once we have disturbed this very well balanced nature it is a difficult road to revive it. Nature has always had methods of checks and balances and preservation. Without sounding too demeaning, it has not been until the introduction of modern man that these balances have been disturbed and in some cases sadly enough destroyed. If man does destroy himself through this neglect, only ourselves will have suffered because the plants, the other animals, and the minerals will all continue without us.
The importance of using ecotourism as a teaching tool can not be emphasized enough. Here exists a great opportunity to show people how important our earth is and how they can help while having fun and enjoying a vacation. Ecotourism is not a license to drive our four wheeled vehicles where no man has gone before and make sure we take our beer cans back with us. No! Far from it. Ecotourism is saying don’t drive your car there at all. Leave it alone. Leave it to nature. Ecotourism is saying drive where you used to drive but look at it from a different view. Help erase where man has ravaged. Help clean up. Help preserve. This is so not only so we and our future generations can enjoy it but also so every living thing can go on undisturbed.
Perhaps ecotourism is not even the right word. Maybe words like respect; concern; care; are what we should use. Maybe even fear – fear of what could happen to our fragile earth. Let all of us anticipate that not only will tourism continue for all of us involved but it will continue down a new path where everyone in this industry will not only take steps to go beyond keeping our environment clean and undisturbed but start to clean up where we have gone wrong.