Many people ask me what ecotourism means to us. It’s not an easy concept to explain as the impact of tourism is complex and has various social, cultural, economic and environmental effects in each area.
ECOTOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
A definition that is commonly used is the following:
“Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.” (The Nature Conservancy, World Conservation Union)
Just because you operate in a nature reserve, it doesn’t mean that you have an ecotouristic business. Ecotourism emphasises conservation, education, traveller responsibility and active community participation. More specifically, “it:
helps educate the traveller;
provides funds for conservation;
directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities;
and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights”*.
Ecotourism is very important so that future generations can experience the wonderful environment we have today.
We realize that it’s very difficult for an operation to be 100% sustainable due to financial and practical reasons. All the companies listed in our community show a continuous commitment towards becoming more sustainable every year and reducing their negative impact towards the environment and the people.
Here are some practical guidelines of what you can do to become more sustainable:
RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Minimise your water consumption and waste as water is scarce and a major issue in Greece. Inform your clients of the issue and let them know how they can help;
Minimise your consumption of electric energy (use solar energy, wind generators, insulation, sensory lights e.t.c.);
Reduce CO2 emissions by using solar panels, organising activities that don’t involve fuel consumption (walking, sailing e.t.c.);
Use of construction and cleaning products that are environmentally friendly;
Recycle your litter and provide your staff and guests with guidelines;
Educate your stuff and guests in order to increase awareness for the local biodiversity and the need to protect it;
Use local resources and products, cultivate your own fruits and vegetables in order to reduce CO2 emmissions produced by transporting products from distant areas;
Develop and get involved in programs for the preservation and protection of the local environment and species (clean ups, replantations e.t.c.) and get your guests to participate;
Offer activities, programs, accommodation for small groups so you avoid putting strain on natural resources and other issues associated with overcrowding;
If looking to set up a new business, prefer to operate in a non-tourist area in order to avoid putting too much strain on the environment caused by overcrowding.
RESPECT FOR THE PEOPLE
Use local suppliers and service providers to cover the needs of your business. Bring new business to the local community, so they benefit as well;
Create and offer jobs to the local community and support its people;
Recommend local products, services for your guests (i.e. local taverns instead of big international restaurant chains, local cheese rather than a branded one);
Don’t put strain on local resources leading to shortages and inflation;
Respect the local character of the area, its customs and culture and help its preservation;
Recommend and inform your guests about the particularities of the area, local customs e.t.c.;
Respect the local architecture and don’t build something that will go against the character of the area.
Finally it would be a great contradiction if you follow all of the above but at the same time you mistreat or underpay your staff. We believe that respect towards your staff and guests is undoubtfully proof of your “respect for the people”.
The list is endless and you should constantly be looking for new ways to make your business more sustainable. We’d like to use the above as a working document and build on it.
Another problem I’d like to stress is that fears have grown around “greenwashing” – many companies exaggerate their claims to attract more business and take advantage of the term “eco” and “responsible”. We recommend that:
You have a clear written policy that is available to your guests for comments and feedback;
You set targets every year and review them annually;
It would even be a great idea to allow a small budget aside in order to build on that list.
Read more about us and our philosophy!
Please contact us at email@example.com for more information and your views.
* Honey, Martha (2008). Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? (Second ed.). Washington, DC: Island Press